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Tennessee activists push for the President to sign an ENDA executive order

Here’s a reminder  that while marriage equality is blooming all over, there’s some serious unfinished business in states where legislatures have no interest in protecting LGBT taxpaying citizens from employment discrimination. (Washington Blade):

Faced with living in a state with no non-discrimination law protecting them, LGBT activists demonstrated in three Tennessee cities on Sunday to call on President Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in job bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Chris Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said he organized the demonstration as part of 24 Tennessee groups because of a law signed last year by Gov. Bill Haslem (R) prohibiting cities from passing LGBT non-discrimination ordinances. That measure rescinded a contractor non-discrimination ordinance that passed a couple months earlier in Nashville.

“We had experienced in 2011 Nashville passing a contractor non-discrimination ordinance only to have the state nullify it,” Sanders said. “So, we have no option but this executive order and ENDA ahead of us in Tennessee. We have no hope for getting state employment protections at the state level when now we can’t even pass them in our city.”

With a stroke of a pen, Barack Obama could extend protections into states while we work to get a Congress elected that will pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). So far, the White House has punted on the executive order, preferring to leave it to Congress.

Kudos for TEP’s demonstration — North Carolina, where I live, is in the same boat, with a GOP-controlled General Assembly and an incoming Republican governor. The President’s lifeline of an executive order can make a real difference — allowing people to come out of the closet to advocate for their rights.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding