President Obama signed an executive order this week that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, affecting millions of federal employees and contractors. The President says his order will bend the “arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.”
That arc has a long way to go. Millions of Americans remain at risk of losing their jobs for being who they are.
The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act would have provided relief to nearly all Americans. But it is languishing in the House after approval by the Senate. Though the measure includes overly broad religious exemptions, it would be a big step forward.
After the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which privileges the religious beliefs of owners over the legal entitlements of workers, several religious leaders asked Mr. Obama to carve out a similar exemption in his executive order. Properly, he did not oblige them.
More states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against gay people. Ohio, regrettably, does neither. Thousands of Ohioans remain subject to bias in employment and housing, because state government chooses to look the other way.
President Obama’s executive order is limited to those Americans who are lucky enough to live in the right place or work for the right company. But piecemeal guarantees of basic civil liberties won’t suffice.