WASHINGTON — On Thursday, President Obama will be celebrating LGBT Pride Month with a reception in the East Room of the White House. And while many eyes in the LGBT community are focused on the Supreme Court, a growing number of people are also looking to Obama and wondering why he has not signed an executive order banning federal contractors from anti-LGBT job discrimination.
"It is something that this president can do that has immediate impact on real people's lives," Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin told BuzzFeed on the eve of the reception. "I wish he would have done it a long time ago, and I hope he does it sooner rather than later because it was a promise that was made, it is something that he can easily do and have direct and immediate impact on thousands upon thousands of people's lives with the stroke of a pen."
Obama's inaction led the activist group GetEqual to send members into a fundraising event with First Lady Michelle Obama last week, which one member disrupted by interrupting the first lady to push for action on the executive order.
Griffin, whose organization endorsed Obama's reelection and is in close contact with the White House, did not have much in terms of answers or explanations.
"I don't have the answer as to why it has not yet happened. As you know, I and we and this organization have urged and have pushed and have advocated for this, and I say this organization because [HRC] had advocated for this long before I walked in this door. I've made it a priority: I've spoken about it, I've written about it, we have done a series of … campaigns on this issue, we have worked with the 38 senators, we actually did an email from Merkley to all of our members encouraging action on it, but I and I'm not sure anyone can give you a good reason why it has not yet happened. If there is a reason, I am not aware of it," he said.
In terms of the White House's proclaimed preference for legislative action, Griffin responded curtly, "It's not either-or; it's both."
Although he wouldn't specify to whom he had spoken at the White House about the issue, he would say, "I have repeatedly urged in my private conversations, which is no surprise, the president to issue the executive order, and there is no person who has given me directly any reason that it has not yet happened or that it couldn't or shouldn't happen."
Griffin continues to believe it will happen.
"The reason I'm optimistic is a couple of things: One, the president promised five years ago that he would sign the executive order, and two, there's absolutely no reason not to sign it. Every day that goes by is an individual, and ultimately a family, that suffers for someone not being hired in the first place or being fired for being LGBT," Griffin said.
He also noted "the great example that we have of Exxon," which is a federal contractor and does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy. In recent weeks, Freedom to Work sued ExxonMobil in Illinois over its alleged discriminatory hiring practices.
"It sort of gave this really visible reason to the world that this executive order is important," Griffin said. "Here you have one of the largest companies in the United States, profiting to the tune of billions and billions of dollars of LGBT taxpayers, and they, in turn, directly and intentionally discriminate against them. The option would be eliminated by the simple stroke of a pen."
Asked what he thought about the actions of GetEqual, members of which have suggested that they could stage an action surrounding Thursday's White House reception, Griffin said, "I would let them speak for themselves. I do know that the way that that and all the other actions around this go away is a very simple one: The president issues the executive order."
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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