In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged Congress to focus on job creation for the millions of Americans who remain unemployed. However, he failed to account for the thousands who will be unable to take those jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 29 states, you can be fired just for being gay; in 38, just for being transgender. Congress has failed to pass a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) despite its being introduced every Congress since 1994. The 111th Congress represented the LGBT community’s best chance at getting federal protection from workplace discrimination, but they were let down thanks to the political cowardice of their so-called “fierce advocates” in Washington.
When asked whether Obama would work on ENDA this Congress, outgoing Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that he would, even in spite of the GOP’s recent takeover of the House. We are encouraged to hear that he intends to push for this very important legislation even in the face of increasingly long odds. But in his most high-profile speech of the year, a speech in which the president is meant to outline his legislative priorities for the coming session, Obama failed to mention ENDA at all. This is a grave disappointment to the many people who desperately need ENDA in order to make an honest living.
Obama must make a fully-inclusive ENDA a legislative priority this year; he must push both Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike to consider this legislation. If Obama or any other politician is serious about jobs, then he must remain committed to ensuring that all Americans are equally eligible for those jobs.
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