Over the past several months, President Obama has been widely criticized for failing to protect the LGBT community from a certain kind of discrimination. It is within the president’s authority to draft an executive order insisting that LGBT workers must be protected from employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation and sexual identifications. The president has declined to draft such an order however, for one arguably compelling reason.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is currently being considered by Congress. This legislation would reach more affected workers and would have broader enforcement mechanisms than violation of an executive order would; the order’s reach would largely only extend to employees of federal contractors. The president has insisted for some time now that he would prefer to see Congress pass ENDA than to draft an executive order on the issue.
Recently, Vice President Joe Biden weighed in on the controversy. He insisted that while he can see no reason why President Obama should not draft an executive order, congressional passage of ENDA is a superior solution to the problem of widespread sexual orientation discrimination in the American workforce.
The Vice President’s approach to the issue inspires some intriguing questions. If there is unlikely to be any negative consequences resulting from an executive order, why not pass one? At the same time, would it potentially lessen pressure on Congress to pass ENDA if the president issued an executive order? It is important to keep discussing these questions and advocating for equal treatment in the workplace until substantial reforms are passed in regards to this issue.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Biden: No 'Downside' To Executive Action On LGBT Discrimination, But ENDA Is Better,” Jennifer Bendery, April 30, 2014