- (Photo: Reuters/Tim Shaffer)
Homosexual activists are outraged over President Obama's refusal to sign an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A key activist called Obama a "coward" and plans to execute a "We Can't Wait" campaign to draw attention to the issue.
Jonathan Lewis, the son of billionaire Peter Lewis, told The Washington Post that he plans to spend $100,000 to fund the "We Can't Wait" campaign.
"This isn't a broken promise President Obama can blame on Congress," Lewis said. "He has not been able to provide a single valid reason for why he is now refusing to sign the executive order protecting LGBT workers. It has become increasingly clear that this decision is based on cowardice rather than principled leadership."
President Obama has given the gay community a number of small victories in his first term such as agreeing not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, but has recently ruffled feathers for his refusal to formally endorse same-sex marriage, which is viewed as the group's number one priority.
Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett delivered the bad news to a handful of gay activists in a White House meeting last week. According to one of the attendees, Tico Almeida of Freedom to Work, the reasons provided by Jarrett were hard for the group to swallow.
"It was weak, it was shallow, it was unpersuasive," Almeida told Michelangelo Signorile, who hosts a gay program on SirusXM OutQ. "
What added to the tense exchange was the fact that the White House called the meeting that was also attended by Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, Winnie Stachelberg of the Center For American Progress and Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Although President Obama has said his views on same-sex marriage are "evolving," gay activists also see the president's hesitation as one grounded in politics.
"Was it political? You bet it was," said one congressional staffer on the issue, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's political because Obama doesn't want to alienate Ohio and Florida."
The executive order that homosexual activists wanted Obama to sign is modeled on an executive order that was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 that barred discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of race, gender and religion.
Despite the tension, the White House has left itself wiggle room by not completely ruling out the president signing the order. Jay Carney, the president's spokesman, said last week the administration is committed to advancing the issues and hopes to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The bill, or a similar version, has been introduced each year since 1994 with no progress having been made. A Republican controlled House does not bode well for the legislation, particularly in an election year.
"There is a reason the bill hasn't passed," the congressional aide who asked not to be identified said. "Not enough members of either party are willing to die at the stake over a pro-homosexual bill."