On Monday, the First Family is hosting the 134th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. More than 35,000 winners of an online lottery will join the Obamas on the South Lawn, for egg-hunting, live music, cooking demonstrations, storytelling, and one-on-one lobbying to get the president to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Jarrod Scarbrough and Les Sewell, who have been partners for 18 years, are trekking from Albuquerque, N.M., with daughter in tow, to the White House for the event, hoping to make a personal appeal to the president, reports The Washington Times.
"I work for a federal contractor, and there's a piece of paper sitting on President Obama's desk that would give me a little more security for my family," Scarbrough, who works for United Healthcare, said in a statement.
For decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates have been trying to pressure legislators to make it illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against LGBT Americans. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been introduced in Congress almost every year since 1994. There is no federal law against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
But in an election year, when social issues are sizzling, and with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, advocates have chosen a different approach. They've bypassed the Congress altogether, and gone straight to the man in charge, asking him to pass an executive order that would ban any company contracted by the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"The ultimate answer to the problem of discrimination against LGBT employees is for Congress to pass the ENDA," said Ian Thompson, a legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union. "But we realize that in the current time we're in right now, that's not going to make it all the way to the president's desk."
The executive order has already been approved by the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor. Last week, 72 House Democrats sent a letter to the president, urging him to sign the order.
Scarbrough and Sewell aren't the first gay partners to use the White House's Easter festivities as a political stage. The event's traditionalism and innocence make it an ideal setting, after all, for gay families to pitch themselves as just like anybody else.
In 2006, 200 gay families attended the event, then hosted by President George W. Bush, in the hope of making gay families more visible. Some religious conservatives accused the families of "crashing" the party, and exploiting "a children's event for political purposes."
"As so many families gather on the White House lawn next week, I hope that the First Family takes a moment to reflect on how hard gay families like mine work to ensure that we have the stability and security that so many others take for granted," Scarbrough said.
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