By Contributor on July 24, 2014

By Kathi Wolfe

President Obama did a great thing on July 21. He signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The order also prohibited the federal government from discriminating against transgender civil service employees.

As a lesbian, I applaud this historic move, and you, as a person who believes in fairness, should too.

You may not realize that in many states there is no legal recourse for lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender people who encounter employment discrimination.

There is no federal law that prevents an employer from not hiring or firing you, no matter how qualified you may be for the job, if you're not a heterosexual.

In 29 states, no laws prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 32 states, no laws ban employment discrimination based on gender identity.

For decades, Congress has failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent job discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in both the federal and private sector. The Senate has passed it, but the House refuses to, so discrimination is still legal in the United States.

The order the president signed goes a long way toward correcting this injustice. Obama's executive order will protect 14 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans against discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

A majority of the American public supports this move. "A recent national survey of 1,200 registered voters found that 63 percent of those surveyed favor a federal law that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination," the White House said in a fact sheet. "When asked specifically about LGBT nondiscrimination in federal contracting, another poll found that 73 percent of those surveyed favor such policies."

Large companies support it, as well. The White House reported that "91 percent of Fortune 500 companies already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 61 percent already prohibit discrimination based on gender identity."

Small companies support employment equality, as well.

"According to research conducted by Small Business Majority, six in ten small business owners believe that employment nondiscrimination laws improve their bottom line by helping employers attract the best and brightest employees," the White House said.

We who are LGBT don't want special rights in the workplace. We only want to be hired and fired based on our ability to do the work.

There's still much work to be done before employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is ended in this country. But, as Obama said, his executive order puts us on "the right side of history."

That's something to celebrate.

Kathi Wolfe is a writer and poet. Her most recent poetry collection, "The Green Light," was published by Finishing Line Press. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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