On Monday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for millions of federal employees and contractors, which will, in his words, bend the “arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.” That arc has a long way to go, though — millions of Americans still remain at risk of losing their jobs simply for being who they are.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, would have provided relief to nearly all Americans, but it has languished for months in the House after passage by the Senate.
In the spirit of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision favoring the religious beliefs of owners over the legal entitlements of workers, several religious leaders had written to Mr. Obama asking him to carve out a similar exemption in his executive order. He rightly did not oblige them.
Surprisingly, there are now more states that allow gay marriage than those that prohibit LGBT discrimination. In Pennsylvania, although a same-sex marriage ban was struck down by a federal judge in May, thousands of residents are still subject to discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation because of the intransigence of a few state lawmakers, such as Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry.
While cities like Pittsburgh have passed fairness ordinances that correct these lapses, they are, like Mr. Obama’s executive order, limited to only those Americans lucky enough to live in the right place or work for the right company. Piecemeal guarantees of basic civil liberties simply will not do.