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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Faith and Humanist Group Call for ENDA Executive by Noah Baron

In 2008, President Obama made a commitment to sign an executive order banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees of federal contractors. Yet a few weeks ago – and about four years after he made that promise – he announced that he would not be signing that executive order after all. Many LGBT advocacy groups have already expressed their disappointment about the president’s decision, and the RAC recently coordinated 23 faith and humanist organizations recently in joining those groups and urging the president to change his mind and issue the executive order he promised four years ago.
Among those groups were the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis – the congregational and clergy bodies of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America, which together encompass more than 1.5 million Jews and 1800 rabbis.
The Reform Movement has long been active in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans. For over three decades, we have called for equality for LGBT people. As people of faith, our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim, in the Divine image (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. As Jews, our tradition and history teach us that we should not stand by as others suffer discrimination – we envision a government which “to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance” (George Washington, in a letter to Moses Seixas, 1790).
The executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors is ready for the president's signature.
Our commitment to working for LGBT equality has often been recognized by the people with whom we partner, and this time has been no exception. Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, said, “Freedom to Work commends Rabbi David Saperstein for his strong leadership in organizing this impressive letter from national religious leaders asking President Obama to reconsider the mistake made by White House staff who passed on the LGBT Executive Order ‘at this time.’”
We hope the White House will reverse course on this vital issue and protect LGBT Americans and their families from discrimination.
The letter is as follows:

May 3, 2012
 Dear President Obama:
On behalf of the undersigned groups representing a wide variety of faith and belief systems, including non-theistic beliefs, we write to express our disappointment in your decision not to issue an executive order to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the prohibited forms of discrimination in the hiring and employment practices of U.S. government contractors.
We believe that no one should face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity: Our various faith traditions and belief systems counsel the treatment of all people with dignity. They inspire us to act with compassion and to work to ensure that all are accorded respect and equal opportunity. Moreover, many of us draw on our experience as members of groups that historically have known discrimination as a reminder of the importance of such anti-discrimination measures as a means of ensuring fairness in employment.
LGBT Americans face significant discrimination and harassment in the workplace, which threatens their and their families’ economic security. Research has shown that up to 43 percent of gay Americans have experienced some form of workplace discrimination or harassment; this number is significantly higher for transgender Americans (90%). Moreover, between 8 and 17 percent of LGBT workers said that they had been passed over for a job or fired as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result of this discrimination, 14 percent of LGBT Americans earn less than $10,000 per year, compared to only six percent of all Americans (Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute,Memo to Congressman Barney Frank re: LGBT Equality in Government Contracting, January 13, 2012).
The concept of prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment is supported among Americans of all political stripes. A poll commissioned by the Center for American Progress discovered that almost three-quarters of those asked supported protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace. Supermajorities of Democrats (81%), Independents (74%), and Republicans (66%) all supported anti-discrimination provisions (Memo to Congressman Barney Frank re: LGBT Equality in Government Contracting).
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to reconsider issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination by U.S. government contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anti-Defamation League
American Humanist Association
American Conference of Cantors
Central Conference of American Rabbis
The Center for Inquiry
The Episcopal Church
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Justice Ministries
Interfaith Alliance
Institute for Science and Human Values
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Metropolitan Community Churches
Muslims for Progressive Values
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Churches USA
National Minority AIDS Council
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Secular Coalition for America
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Women of Reform Judaism
Image courtesy of Freedom to Work