Why Did President Obama Postpone an Anti-Discrimination Order?

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By Bob Cesca: I don't know exactly why the White House decided to not issue an executive order banning discrimination among federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation. Believe it or not, it's still possible, if you're a government contractor, to fire someone because they're part of the LGBT community.

President Obama signs an Executive Order lifti...

According to The Huffington Post, the openly gay White House Director of Specialty Media, Shin Inouye, said, "While it is not our usual practice to discuss Executive Orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time."

Again, I don't know exactly why they decided to postpone the order based on the administration response, but I suspect it was about the election and it was about the idea that the president would rather pass a law addressing this issue than to release an executive order.

Of course, neither excuse comes close to mitigating the problem, or the president's lack of action here. But yes, presidents often make decisions based on political calculus and strategy -- especially on a day when the 2012 general election began in earnest. It's political reality. Meanwhile, a congressional law would make such a rule more-or-less permanent, while an executive order could be very easily overturned by Future Republican President X. Regarding that, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is winding its way through Congress, though it's unlikely it would make it through the anti-gay House Republican gauntlet. For reasons beyond comprehension, the Republicans think it's objectionable to tell a business who it can and can't hire even if it means rejecting otherwise qualified people just because of who they are (Ron Paul, inexplicably a favorite among some progressives, could be the loudest purveyor of this twisted idea).

All of that said, and despite the likely excuses, I'm having trouble seeing any harm in the president signing an executive order as a bridge until ENDA can be passed, which could be as soon as January if the Democrats can pull off a big November.

Seriously. How bad could it really have been? Are there any polls showing solid opposition to such an endeavor? Hardly -- in fact, just the opposite. A poll of likely 2012 voters from the Center for American Progress showed huge support for such a law. Even Republicans support the law by near-supermajority margins:

Nearly three-fourths of voters (73 percent) support protecting gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination. This support cuts across political party affiliation, with 81 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans supporting workplace nondiscrimination laws for gay and transgender people.

It's a no-brainer.

However, before progressive opponents of the administration start screeching about how this is the worst president ever for the gay community (Dan Choi and others, specifically), it's important to also note several recent successes.

--The president has voiced his opposition to a Minnesota same-sex marriage ban. An Obama for America official released the following statement to the Metro Weekly newspaper: “While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do — it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and that’s why the President does not support it.”

--Meanwhile, Homeland Security, under President Obama, recently announced "plans to allow same-sex couples to cross the border together rather than separately."

These announcements are just the latest in a long string of pro-LGBT actions by the administration. All good news, but they also make the executive order announcement even more baffling.

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