Yesterday, President Obama signed two executive orders on equal pay for women. One will ensure that employees of federal contractors are freely able to share their own salary information with one another without the threat of retaliation, and a second will require the Department of Labor to submit wage-related data to the federal government to start to compile a more accurate and more transparent picture of possible trends in unequal pay for women.
Both of these steps are welcome and much needed. As a woman, I'm glad to see some positive steps being taken to address the problem of pay inequity that has persisted for as long as women have been in the workplace. As a lesbian, however, I'm appalled that President Obama is excluding lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers from these much-needed workplace protections.
While he was running for president in 2008, then-Sen. Obama affirmed in a written candidate questionnaire that -- if elected president -- he would sign a much-needed executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Six years later, LGBT Americans are still asking where his signature is -- and the White House's new strategy to get around a do-nothing Congress by using such executive authority leaves us even more fervently asking when we will get the workplace protections we so desperately need.
Of course, LGBT Americans also need federal legislation to expand those protections to all employers -- and White House spokespeople consistently skirt the question of this executive order by pointing to the need for such legislation. But if the president's argument for the use of executive orders is that a divided Congress isn't passing much of anything these days, skirting this question is simply digging a deeper hole as LGBT workers suffer.
We need the president to deliver on his word. Right now, the law of the land is that taxpayer money is being allocated to federal contractors with no regard for whether those employers are actively discriminating against workers simply because of who they are. This is un-American, un-Constitutional, and shameful -- and President Obama is actively participating in such discrimination by refusing to put his pen to paper just one more time.
Cronk is co-director of GetEQUAL, a national grassroots social justice organization working toward the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.