Some weeks, things just aren’t going to go your way.
For President Barack Obama, this past week served as one of the most challenging weeks of his presidency. From the ISIS insurgency in Iraq to the child refugees on our southern border to the attack on Malaysian Air Flight 17 to the newest round of fighting in Gaza, our nation’s 44th President has had a lot on his plate. Despite constant criticism from Republicans about not solving all four problems simultaneously, the President has remained as cool and as level-headed as ever. And even though these incidents are taking their toll on him, President Barack Obama has not forgotten his mission: To make the lives better for everyday Americans.
On Monday, he intends to do just that.
With House Republicans refusing on act on the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) despite having passed the Senate by a 2 to 1 margin, the White House announced on Friday that President Obama will again use the power of the presidency to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual identification or gender identity. This order will not include any new exemptions for religious organizations, who already had in place a series of protections including the ability to favor various ministers, as well as groups of a particular religion in their hiring practices. All told, the executive order will affect nearly 1/5 of the nation’s workforce, with 24,000 companies and their nearly 28 million workers being affected by the President’s newest executive order.
Civil rights groups and White House officials have already come out in praise of the President’s action that will help quell the fear of countless numbers of employees who still could have been fired for being gay, bisexual, or transgender. The Human Rights Campaign released a statement saying, ““With the strokes of a pen, the president will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of LGBT people across the country.” Heather Cronk, the director of activist organization GetEqual stated, “We’re so proud today of the decision made by the Obama administration to resist the calls by a small number of right-wing conservatives to insert religious exemptions into civil rights protections.” During a conference call, a White House official chimed in by saying, ”This is another case where doing what is right also helps businesses improve their bottom line.”
Despite the inevitable Republican outcries of “Dictator!” this legislation is actually updating two previous orders, including one by a Republican president. The legislation would first update an order by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in that it would add sexual orientation and gender identity as categories that would be protected for federal contractors. It also would update an order by Republican President Richard Nixon by allowing gender identity to be added to the list of groups that are protected from federal employer discrimination. This latest order would follow up President Bill Clinton’s 1998 contribution when he added sexual orientation to the list of banned forms of discrimination to go along with race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age.
In addition to the cries of presidential overreach, Republicans will also somehow try to convince their sheep that this newest executive order is being done as a way to take attention off of everything else the President is currently dealing with. However, that couldn’t be further from the case. As President Obama meets with top advisers and considers practical, sensible solutions for the problems at hand, he also simultaneously continues to be the most progressive president in terms of social issues that this country has ever seen. This latest executive order shows that the President is again over Republicans in Congress playing petty games with people’s well-being. For President Obama, the issue of workplace equality was too important to let sitting on the table and with the House’s refusal to act on ENDA, the President again stepped up for the good of the American people.
The Republican argument that President Barack Obama is not leading on the world stage has grown as old and worn out as the Republican Party’s views themselves. Barack Obama knows that there is still work to be done to restore America’s reputation on the world stage and he is doing everything he can to do so, despite having a Republican-led Congress that refuses to work with him in any regard. President Obama knows that the United States can not go about lecturing other countries about fairness and equality if we don’t have it here at home. What Republicans fail to understand is that their recalcitrance to govern has hindered America’s reputation far greater than any action on the part of the President. As they continue to sit on the sideline and play armchair president while failing to offer any meaningful solutions, the United States of America has an actual sitting president who with everything imaginable on his plate, is still going to bat to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally under the law.
That is what real leadership looks like.