The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) continues to languish in Congress because of opposition in the Republican-controlled House. But the White House doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about writing an executive order to offer at least some protections to LGBT workers. In comments that drew wide criticism from LGBT activists, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that ENDA would make the need for an executive order “redundant.”
Two problems with that comment: it wouldn’t, and ENDA isn’t passing any time soon.
“Even if ENDA were to pass tomorrow, we’d still need the president to sign the executive order in order to ensure that those same protections exist for LGBT workers,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. The executive order would provide protection to workers of federal contractors who would not otherwise be covered.
More to the point, the executive order would send a signal to the nation about the importance of workplace protections. It would also fulfill President Obama’s promise of doing an end run around a recalcitrant Congress when possible.
Meantime, there is some hope from a new federal court ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is allowing a gay man who says he experienced workplace discrimination to pursue his claim under the nation’s major civil rights protection law.
Peter TerVeer claims that his boss at the Library of Congress created “a hostile environment in which he imposed his religion and sexual stereotypes” on TerVeer. TerVeer complained, only to receive negative performance reviews as part of what his lawsuit calls “a campaign of retaliation.”
Under normal circumstances, TerVeer wouldn’t have much recourse. However, his attorneys argue that his claims are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Because much of the legal reasoning in support of marriage equality relies upon the argument that same-sex couples are being discriminated against because of their gender, firing someone for not conforming to traditional gender roles would be sex discrimination as well.
Winning a workplace discrimination cases under Title VII would be a good legal victory. But wouldn’t be nice to have a political one from the White House? Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it.