The Time for Equality Is Today, Not Tomorrow

The Washington Blade released an email from Democratic National Committee treasurer Andy Tobias in response to a question from Freedom to Work's Tico Almeida in which Tobias said a process is underway at the White House to potentially move forward on the executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. Such an executive order would complete a promise made to the LGBT community by candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

The unanswered question is why it has taken the White House five years and counting to make good on that promise. According to the email, there is a process that the White House is going through. However, according to the Blade article, "[i]nternal work within the Obama administration on the executive order reportedly was done more than a year ago. Sources told the Blade last year that the Labor and Justice departments indicated they could implement the order if Obama signed it."

But there has been a question about whether the White House is doing a study on this issue, and if so, who's doing it. One thought was that it was being done by the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). But if such a study is underway, the Blade reported, "it's being kept under tight wraps," adding:

The Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Work, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Williams Institute said they're unaware of such a study. Center for American Progress didn't respond to requests for comment about it.

Recently, a report titled "A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers" was released, and it gave details on what the lack of federal workplace nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers means. The findings include a poll that showed that "67 percent of small business owners support federal workplace non-discrimination protections and 63 percent of Americans believe religious beliefs aren't an acceptable reason to fire LGBT workers."

Tobias' email goes on to say:

If we all keep pushing, not least with this Exxon action to focus around, we'll get there -- later than we should have but a great deal sooner than we would have if we hadn't helped reelect the President.

Hate crimes was done too slowly -- we deserved it 20 years ago. DADT and evolution on marriage and all the rest. But they got done and this will get done too.

The LGBT community has to ask how long is too long to wait for equality. Yes, hate crimes legislation finally did get done, as did the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," but even there we are still waiting for gays and lesbians who serve in the military to get equal treatment, and there was no resolution for all the men and women who were discharged from service while we waited for action.

Patience is a great thing, but discrimination rears its ugly head every day. While the community is asked to exhibit patience, there are LGBT children being bullied, committing suicide, and making up 40 percent of the homeless youth population, and LGBT men and women are being forced to stay in (or go back in) the closet or risk losing their jobs.

Many of us support the president and stood with him during the last election. We raised millions of dollars, populated his Chicago campaign office, and walked the streets ringing doorbells in precincts he needed to win. We did so because we believe in him. But the time for him to sign this executive order is now, not tomorrow. He may not have the votes to pass ENDA, but he has a pen.

Members of the LGBT community get accused of acting in a racist manner when they challenge First Lady Michelle Obama on this issue. We are bombarded every day with a barrage of emails asking us to keep giving to the DNC and other Democratic groups to support our president and his policies, and to support an immigration bill in which we will be left out. We are asked to give "the max" and give "till it hurts."

Well, President Obama, we will keep giving and working for a Democratic Congress and supporting you, but in return, you need to pick up your pen and sign that executive order today.