This past summer, President Obama issued Executive Order 13672 which will add prohibitions against discrimination based sexual orientation and gender identity in federal contracts. EO 13672 modifies previous Executive Order 11478 by substituting “sexual orientation, gender identity” for “sexual orientation” and Executive Order 11246 by substituting “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin” for “sex, or national origin”.
Last Friday, EO 13672 was published in the Federal Register as a final rule meaning that it will take effect in March 2015. Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs which is responsible for enforcement, had this to say about the new rule:
This rule will extend protections to millions of workers who are employed by or seek jobs with federal contractors and subcontractors, ensuring that sexual orientation and gender identity are never used as justification for workplace discrimination by those that profit from taxpayer dollars.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez echoed her position saying, “Laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity are long overdue, and we’re taking a big step forward today to fix that”.
However, two Republicans, Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg and Minnesota Congressman John Kline, are trying to slam the breaks on ending workplace discrimination for the LGBT community. The day the new rule was announced, they sent a letter to Director Shiu, demanding that she halt enforcement of the new rule and allow a 60-day public comment period on whether or not the federal government should allow for workplace discrimination against LGBT people.
This is a blatantly political move on the part of Walberg and Kline who appear to be ignorant about the law. According to the Department of Labor, there is no requirement for a public comment period in these situations:
Following the submission of the proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review in October, a Labor Department official told Metro Weekly that a public comment period was not required.
“In cases like this, where an agency only makes a change that an EO requires, agencies may publish final rules without notice and comment,” the official said at the time. “Its submission as a final rule is consistent with similar changes the department has made in response to executive orders in the past, such as the final rule the Bush Administration issued to implement the Executive Order that added a religious exemption to EO 11246.”
That was a sentiment echoed by Tico Almeida, president and founder of Freedom to Work, who accused Kline of playing politics.
“Kline represents a moderate district where majorities of voters support LGBT workplace protections, so this is clearly an example of Kline pandering to the extremist Tony Perkins element of the Republican base,” Almeida stated. “Kline is waging a war that is a real political loser for the Republican Party, and he’s on the wrong side of history.”
The Republican LGBT advocacy group Log Cabin Republicans is siding with the Obama administration on this, calling their own Party’s members “out-of-touch” with their “ridiculous bluff”:
“Bring it on,” Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo responded. “Unlike his hotly contested unilateral actions on immigration or minimum wage, President Obama’s executive order providing workplace protections for LGBT federal employees is a simple extension of an executive order that was already in place under the administration of President George W. Bush.
“We hope that Director Shiu calls Congressmen Kline and Walberg on their ridiculous bluff – if she does, both Congressmen will soon discover what Log Cabin Republicans has been telling their offices for years: that 69 percent of Americans support workplace protections for the LGBT community – including 56 percent of Republicans,” he continued. “It may be extreme, but perhaps a public comment period is what it will finally take for Chairman Kline to realize just how out-of-touch he is on this issue, both with Americans and his own constituents, and finally push the Employment Non-Discrimination Act out of committee where he has kept it bottled up for the past 13 months.”
Here’s hoping the Labor Department tells Walberg and Kline to go pound sand.