The establishment Washington Post editorial board blasted the President for declining to issue an executive order prohibiting LGBT discrimination in the workplace among federal contractors. Using unusually strong language, the Post calls out Administration’s justifications, noting that they used executive orders and federal agency rules to move the ball on LGBT issues prior to legislative action in the past:
The president, Mr. Carney argued, “is committed to lasting and comprehensive non-discrimination protections,” but those protections would be best achieved through a “legislative solution,” such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA, which would extend prohibitions against sexual orientation discrimination to all but the smallest private-sector employers, is a worthy piece of legislation, but its passage appears remote and likely will remain so if conservatives control either chamber of Congress or if the GOP candidate captures the White House in November.
Focusing on the grand gains achieved through legislation also ignores the important role played by executive orders and other administrative acts in paving the way for change. Mr. Carney, for example, pointed to the 2010 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as a model of legislative achievement, but he failed to note that independent presidential action preceded the repeal. Before Congress voted to ditch the wrongheaded policy that prevented openly gay men or lesbians from serving in the military, the president took steps on his own to require, for example, review by higher-level officers before a service member could be ousted.
The dodge that we need a “lasting” legislative solution doesn’t fit with this prior history. And the LGBT community knows it. In fact, they are putting together the same activist coalition that harassed the President during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate. Armed with adequate funding, GetEQUAL plans to confront the President and his re-election campaign until they get what they seek on this issue. They have a short window to get it done, but they also have the ability to deliver a good amount of pressure on Obama.
GetEQUAL’s managing director, Heather Cronk, tells me that in the next few weeks, the group will start staging actions against Obama For America offices throughout the country. The actions will begin with small gestures and will escalate over time.
“We’ll certainly be doing potentially arrestable actions at the White House,” Cronk tells me, confirming that the group has raised money in the six figures from gay donors to finance the actions.
What a terrible decision made by the White House. For some reason, they thought that declining the executive order would give them less of a headache. Now, they will feel the wrath of an organized activist constituency, one they have been hitting up for money in a big way over the past several months. You can say that wealthy LGBT donors have made up for the relatively smaller funds coming in from Wall Street. But all of that gets put into peril now.
I hope the marginal benefit of not pissing off homophobes in swing states who weren’t likely to vote for the President anyway was worth it.