Thursday, September 19, 2013

Facebook "Likes" Ruled to be Constitutionally Protected Free Speech

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia issued its decision regarding First Amendment protection of Facebook “likes” of candidates’ Facebook pages.  In ruling that liking these Facebook pages is protected by the First Amendment, the Court held found that these likes are “the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”

The case emanated from an issue regarding employees of a sheriff’s office who were terminated for supporting their supervisor’s opponents.  The support in issue was evidenced by these employees endorsing their supervisor’s opponent’s Facebook page.  One of the employees also chose to post pictures of the opposing candidate on his own Facebook page.

At issue was not merely the speech of the terminated employees, but the fact that their support was evidenced by simply clicking an icon and not necessarily their traditionally defined speech.  Previously, two Federal Courts had held that actual statements posted on a page are protected by the First Amendment.  It was not until this most recent ruling that the use of the “like” button was considered to be protected speech.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Traxler stated that, “On the most basic level, clicking on the ‘like’ button literally causes to be published the statement that the User ‘likes’ something, which is itself a substantive statement”. He continued by saying that, “the meaning that the user approves of the candidacy whose page is being liked is unmistakable”.

“Liking” something on Facebook is widely known to be an expression of support for the original post or page that the person “likes”.  While it is certainly not “speech” in the traditional sense, so much can now be expressed with one click of the mouse.  While commenting on a page or post further espouses one’s opinion, many people choose to express their support not in words but in a more simple way that Facebook allows.  To not protect these “likes” while extending First Amendment protection to actual comments is unequal and unjust, and the U.S. Court of Appeals (in this author’s opinion) has made the correct decision in treating the two methods of support equally.

More information can be found by reading this Bloomberg article.

More information on the case can be found by reading the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit appellate decision; the case is Bland v. Roberts, 12-1671.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Drones v. Privacy

The use of drones by the military has become increasingly prevalent in the United States’ conflicts in the Middle East.  However, with the cost of these “unmanned aerial systems”, there is now talk about potential use for these drones on U.S. soil.  

These drones have already been used by law enforcement in finding missing persons, and by county planners in measuring the growth of landfills.  Drones have also been used to investigate suspected arson, using thermal cameras to identify hot spots and investigate the path the fire traveled.  Other potential beneficial uses include reading license plates and face recognition.

However, the cost of drones is dropping to the point that private individuals and companies may have access to their use.  Some fear that criminals such as drug dealers and pedophiles could take advantage of the technology.  On a less sinister level, nosy neighbors may use these devices to monitor their neighbors.

With this technology, issues regarding citizens’ privacy must be addressed.  “Surveillance by government is limited by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and snooping by corporations and individuals is covered by privacy law and common law. But these were not written with drones in mind.”  As such, states have already considered legislation specifically aimed at the issue of drones and privacy, with Congress lagging behind in the process.

While drones serve invaluable functions in the military, and provide great benefits to law enforcement and other governmental agencies, the potential use by private citizens and corporations raises great concern.  Even the use by law enforcement and governmental agencies raises concerns about overreaching use of this technology.  Without added legislation, citizens’ rights to privacy will be compromised, and this right of privacy is not and cannot be usurped simply by using technology not originally contemplated or in existence when these laws were originally enacted.  It should be the spirit of the law (the right to privacy) that is protected, no matter the words used to convey this intent.

More information can be found at the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Potential Challenges to New Gun Control Agenda

Yesterday, President Obama announced, in response to the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, his plans to curb gun violence.  In setting forth his agenda, the President is asking Congress to renew a ban on the sale of assault weapons, ensure the performance of background checks on all guns sold and pass new gun-trafficking laws.  The President himself is taking steps to improve the background check process, reinstating funding for federal research on gun violence, ensuring more counselors are available at schools and providing greater access to mental health services.

The Senate is planning to begin discussing the President’s agenda starting next week; the House of Representatives is expected to wait and see what the Democrat-Senate passes before they act.  Once discussions begin, it is expected that there will much opposition to the ban on the sale of assault weapons, as well as a proposed prohibition on high-capacity magazines.  On the other hand, there appears to be much stronger support for universal background checks on gun sales and stricter gun trafficking laws. 

There is much support for stricter gun control, and there are many arguments as to why the President’s proposal is overreaching.  Whether for or against the President’s recently stated objectives, there are some obvious issues that the government will have to deal with before crafting any further gun control laws.

The first most obvious concern will be whether these laws violate the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The true import of the 2nd Amendment has been debated whenever gun control laws are proposed.  The question becomes, does a citizen’s right to bear arms (and what type of arms?) trump the safety and welfare of other citizens?  Will these proposed measures even provide for the greater safety they propose to create?  In the Sandyhook Elementary School shooting, the shooter obtained the gun from his mother; increased and improved background checks cannot determine whether a gun obtained by one person, who is able to pass the background check, will be used by another.

A second issue is the failure to create a sufficient database to ensure background checks are thorough.  In order to create a federal database of people prohibited from purchasing firearms, states must provide the necessary data.  Without complete records, some people who should not be permitted to purchase a gun will slip through the crack.  Even though a gun seller does all they are required to do under the law, without proper notification guns may still be sold when they should not be.

Finally, and perhaps most difficult will be to define what constitutes an “assault rifle”.  On one side, people advocate that any semi-automatic weapon with detachable magazines and “military” features like pistol grips, flash suppressors and collapsible or folding stocks should be deemed an assault rifle.  However, gun advocates state that the term “assault rifle” should be used to describe only fully automatic weapons; they believe that many of the features used to designate “assault rifles”, other than being fully automatic, are merely cosmetic.  With such debate over what does and does not constitute an assault rifle, manufacturers may be able to side-step restrictions with minor alterations, much as they did under the 1994 ban.

Whether one sides with the President’s agenda or feels it is overreaching, the above issues will have to be dealt with in order to ensure any legislation that is written fulfills its intended purpose: help to prevent further gun violence while maintaining the rights of United States’ citizens.  The legislation will have to be drafted to be very specific, and cooperation by all states will be required.  The government cannot prevent all acts of gun violence as no system will be perfect, but the government must also exercise caution in creating a law which has no real effect or overly violates citizens’ rights.

For more information, below are articles with additional information:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sexual Orientation Questions on College Application Questionnaires

In a move that many may find controversial, the University of Iowa is beginning to ask students about their sexual orientation and gender identity; the University of Iowa is the first public U.S. university to begin asking such questions.  At least one private university, Elmhurst College in Illinois, has previously asked such questions of their students.

“The university's decision places it in the middle of a debate in higher education over whether to put such questions to students in a bid to become more inclusive, or to avoid doing so because it could be too intrusive.” The University’s goals in obtaining such data is to: 1) provide better services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students; 2) track retention of these students; and, 3) gauge interest in support services offered by the University.  In order to respect students’ privacy, the questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity are optional on the University’s application questionnaire. 

Campus Pride, a gay and lesbian advocacy organization, has previously attempted to (and continues to push for) questions such as those put forth by the University of Iowa to be included in other university’s application questionnaires.  Campus Pride sees such questions sees such questions being needed to meet the growing need of support services to actively involve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

Had the University of Iowa implemented these questions in furtherance of a policy of exclusion or other type of discrimination, then said questions most certainly should be disallowed.  Had the University of Iowa required that prospective students answer these questions to be considered for admittance, then any outcry over the inclusion of the relevant questions would also be justified.  However, the University of Iowa is asking these questions on a purely voluntary basis (respecting privacy and allowing potential students a choice in answering said questions) and will purportedly be used for the benefit of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.  As long as answering these questions remains voluntary, and results are used solely for the basis of tailoring programs and services that benefit students, it is hard to see an issue with what the University of Iowa is doing.  With the continued push of Campus Pride, perhaps the University of Iowa will be the first of many public universities to use such questions to attempt to meet the needs of the growing population of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

You can read more on this story from Reuters.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

University Guidelines Clash with Marijuana Legalization in Colorado and Washington

In this past November election, two states, Colorado and Washington, passed measures that legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by any person over the age of twenty-one. Prior to the law taking effect, the states are attempting to create rules for the distribution of marijuana. Once the law does go into effect, these two states are expected to take in “tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, financial analysts say”, based on taxes and licensing regulations.

However, even without these regulations, it is already certain that college students in these states will not be able to benefit from the law many of them supported and helped pass. Even with the state laws in place, colleges and universities will continue to enforce their policies banning the use of drugs deemed illegal under federal law; in fact, many universities rely on federal funding they receive for complying with this policy. Dormitory contracts also tend to include provisions banning the use of illegal (under federal law) substances. Finally, college athletes will still have to comply with NCAA regulations. Among these regulations is the prohibition of the use of any substance deemed illegal under federal law.

Washington dealt with a similar issue in 1998 when the state approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although the use of the marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, was banned on campus, Washington State “waived its requirement that all freshmen had to live in dorms to accommodate them”. Although these two states have legalized the (limited) use of marijuana, college students must still ensure they are aware of their campus’ policies or potentially face punishment and the possibility of expulsion. The interaction of the state law with the obligations of the universities based on federal funding creates uncertainty and confusion in what can and cannot be done, and where and where it cannot be done.

As Washington and Colorado are the first two states to deal with such issues, it is certain that even more issues and confusion will have to be dealt with and information will need to be communicated to the states’ citizens to ensure proper compliance and enforcement.

More information can be found at the Dayton Daily News Website.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Affirmative Action in School Admissions Challenged

In 2003, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 vote, that “universities could consider an applicant's race alongside a host of other factors to improve diversity.”  Yesterday, the Court heard challenges to the administration of affirmative action as applied by the University of Texas. 

Abigail Fisher, a white student, sued the University of Texas in 2008.  She claimed that, although she had more qualified credentials, she was denied admission in favor of racial minorities. In bringing her lawsuit, she claimed that she was denied equal protection as guaranteed under the United States Constitution. On the other side, the University of Texas is arguing that affirmative action programs in admissions are still required in order to ensure underrepresented minorities are sufficiently represented at their school.

The conservative judges questioned the school’s attorneys regarding the goals of affirmative action, whether a time would come when affirmative action in admissions was no longer necessary and how universities would know when this time had come without court intervention.  The more liberal judges seemed to side with the fact that there was no need to overturn their prior rulings on this matter.

It is unsure exactly how the vote will lie; as such, it is unsure how strong a ruling against the use of affirmative action in admissions would be should that be the decision of the majority. The current feeling is that enough judges are disenchanted with the University of Texas’use of affirmative action, but not disenchanted enough with affirmative action as a whole to make sweeping changes outside the University of Texas at the moment. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Constitutional Challenges to DOMA

In the past several years, six states have legalized gay marriage within their jurisdiction.  However, the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law, is preventing many of these same sex couples from benefitting from the rights of these state passed laws.  The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals however is ready to hear arguments that portions of DOMA are unconstitutional and discriminate against gay couples.

This case was brought by Edith Windsor who married her partner in Toronto, Canada in 2007.  Shortly thereafter, Ms. Windsor’s partner died leaving her entire estate to Ms. Windsor.  As federal law did not recognize their marriage as valid, Ms. Windsor was assessed with estate taxes of $363,000.

However, Ms. Windsor’s attorneys state that this federal law is unconstitutional as it violates the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.  Previously in June, a federal district court agreed with Ms. Windsor’s attorneys and found a central provision of DOMA to be unconstitutional.  President Obama’s administration has also stated that they believe DOMA to be unconstitutional would no longer defend the law.  However, “a group appointed by the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is defending the law in courts across the country.”  The Court of Appeals has expedited review of this case due to Ms. Windsor’s health; Ms. Windsor has also asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case before the Court of Appeals hears it.

Previously, only one other federal appeals court has ruled on the issue; the First Circuit Court in Boston found in May that “found a central provision of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional for denying federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states where such unions are legal.” In California and Connecticut, federal district courts have also ruled against the law.  Four other cases are currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States; “[t]he Justice Department has filed petitions in all four cases, asking the high court to review the constitutionality of the law's definition of marriage.”

It is understood that where state and federal law both speak to the same issue, federal law preempts the state law.  However, in this case at least three courts have held provisions of DOMA to be unconstitutional and the current administration has no interest in defending the law.  Six states have battled to legalize same sex marriage in their jurisdictions; these battles will be for nothing if DOMA is allowed to preempt state provisions.  Until the Supreme Court hears one of the cases on this issue, and as such rules on the constitutionality of DOMA, same sex couples will never be sure as to what their state given rights really guarantee them.

More information on this case can be found in this article.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

California Bans Sexual Orientation Therapy for Minors

On Tuesday, California became the first state to pass legislation intended to ban reparative therapy intended to change sexual orientation in minors.The Bill passed the California State Assembly by a vote of 51-21.

One of the purposes of this Bill is to educate parents and adults that many of these therapies actually do more harm than good to the minors whose behavior they are attempting to alter.  While attempting to protect minors from these harmful practices, it is also necessary to educate adults so that they (hopefully) discontinue attempts to “curing” minors from their homosexual tendencies.  Many of these therapies cause detrimental effects to the patient’s physical and mental health, which then often leads to substance abuse and/or suicide.

Supporters of the Bill state that homosexuality is not a disease that can be cured through therapy, and as such minors should not be subjected to such treatment.  Furthermore, to allow such therapy, the patient must give informed consent before commencing such treatment; however, it has been stated that minors cannot give informed consent, and therefore cannot be subjected to this therapy no matter their parents’ or guardians’ wishes.

Hopefully, other states will follow the lead of California in this area.  Homosexuality is not a disease, no matter what others may contend.  Homosexuality was removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1973.  This diagnosis was then replaced with a condition termed ego-dystonic homosexuality; however, under great pressure this was removed from the DSM in 1986, with only remnants of the condition being described in the section titled Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. (This article provides more information about mental health and homosexuality.) Even though homosexuality was at one time deemed a disease, it is no longer and, as such, nobody should be forced against their will to be treated.

With the passage of laws such as these, hopefully others will become aware of the negatives associated with such therapies, and no longer use such treatments whether they are allowed by law or not.  By forcing minors into such treatment, there is a chance the minors can be faced with serious harm to their physical and mental well-being.  Parents wishing to “cure” their children may end up unknowingly pushing them towards substance abuse or suicide.  With proper education and awareness, hopefully parents would choose the health of their child over their disapproval of their child’s sexual preferences.  Fortunately, for those parents that would still chose potentially harmful therapies, laws such as the one passed in California will protect the safety of the minors.

You can find the text of Bill 1172 here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chicken Sandwiches and Morality

According to recent news, it is now apparent that one’s choice in fast food restaurants is a declaration of one’s political, moral and/or religious views.  As has been widely covered in the news lately, Chick-fil-a has made a public stance against same sex marriage, basing their view on their interpretation of the Bible.  One should not be shocked that Chick-fil-a is expressing a viewpoint based on religious viewpoints, as Chick-fil-a has never hidden the fact that the company believed in and observed Christian teachings.  What is more surprising is that this fast food chain has recently been declared as the line for whether or not one supports same sex rights.

Yesterday in furtherance of this opinion, many Chick-fil-a’s were packed with a large contingent of “conservative Christians” in celebration of Chick-fil-a appreciation day.  Those that chose to patronize the restaurant yesterday were met with full parking lots and longer than usual waits for food.  The outpouring was said by many to be sign of support for Chick-fil-a’s values and stance against gay marriage.  Some were quoted as saying that they were merely supporting Chick-fil-a’s right to freedom of speech.

Still, many are now boycotting Chick-fil-a based entirely on their stance on same sex marriage.  Some restaurants are beginning to sell “Chick-fil-a alternatives” and there is a kiss-in planned for tomorrow at Chick-fil-a’s in many states.  One blogger has gone as far as reverse-engineering the Chick-fil-a sandwich in order to allow people to “get [their] fried chicken sandwich fix and keep [their] moral principles intact.”

In the end, Chick-fil-a is a fast food restaurant that many visit for their chicken sandwiches.  They are a privately owned business that has the same right to freedom of speech as the individuals who are complaining about the restaurant’s religious viewpoint.  Chick-fil-a’s religious beliefs have never been questioned as seriously as this, nor has any other fast food restaurant’s beliefs been questioned to this extent (at least to this author’s understanding).  

It is understandable that same sex marriage is a hot topic, especially in this day and age (and as such has been written about here on a number of occasions).  But, doing a simple Google news search for “Chick-fil-a” results in a surprising number of news items.  After all, this is a fast food restaurant, not a politician, court or religious entity.  To this author’s knowledge, one does not go to Chick-fil-a for a chicken sandwich and side of religious/moral teaching.  Many businesses in many industries surely have viewpoints that conflict with those of their customers; would these customers be so willing to boycott those businesses should they express their opinion?  The real issue here is not that Chick-fil-a has a conflicting opinion; it is that they had the conviction to express that viewpoint as was their right under the First Amendment.  Individuals certainly have the right to choose which businesses they patronize based on any criteria they see fit, but to place such high standards upon and affect the business of a simple fast food restaurant in such ways seems to be an overreaction.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds "Obamacare"

Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court upheld the majority of the provisions contained in President Obama’s healthcare legislation.  Twenty-six states had challenged this legislation that would require citizens to purchase health insurance that met government mandated minimum standards; those who do not purchase said insurance will be fined.   Many have termed this case “the most significant before the court since at least the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling”.   

Relying on Congress’ power to levy taxes, the Court voted 5-4 to uphold this provision.  The primary restriction that this ruling placed on the health care legislation related to the expansion of Medicaid by states; with the ruling, states will be given the flexibility to expand their Medicaid programs less than originally legislated without fear of being fined.

Republicans have vowed to continue fighting this legislation.  Presumptive Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, has stated he will reverse this legislation if he is elected.  While the goal of the legislation was to resolve the issue of the large number of uninsured citizens many are claiming that this legislation now opens the door for the government to require its citizens to purchase anything the government feels is a necessity, “with broccoli becoming the central example in court arguments.”

One of the major issues with this legislation is that many are not please that the government is requiring them to make a purchase that used to be their personal decision.   Most citizens are now required to purchase insurance whether they wish to or not, and whether they have the means to afford it or not.  The legislation does provide support for “poor and nearly poor households”, but there are others out there who do not qualify for this support that still may have issues affording this government mandated insurance.

The other main concern is determining where the government’s powers end with this type of legislation.  Surely the government cannot require its citizens to buy broccoli, but there are certainly other items the government may deem necessary for citizens’ well-being that are unnecessary and/or unaffordable to some.  Should the government try to expand these powers into other areas, the Supreme Court will be required to create clearer guidelines on what the government can and cannot require its citizens to purchase.

More information can be found in this article from the New York Times.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

House Reduces Protections Under the Violence Against Women Act

On September 13, 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violence Against Women Act (Title IV, §§40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994; Public Law 103-322). The aim of the Act was to fund investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes against women, to impose automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allow civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.  The Act also provided “anonymity to victims of domestic abuse who are applying for residency visas so that their applications cannot be sabotaged by their alleged abusers.” Also, to encourage cooperation with law enforcement officials, witnesses are provided with an opportunity to apply for special residency, and eventually permanent residence.  The Act has already been renewed twice, with bipartisan support.

However, the last Bill authorizing the continuation of the Act expired in 2011. The Senate has approved a Bill expanded protections for lesbians, immigrants and Native Americans and passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 68-31.  However, on Wednesday the House of Representatives passed their version of the Bill, stripping away the protections for immigrants who are subjected to such violence or who witness such acts of violence.  Some feel the House Bill will discourage immigrant women from reporting abuse for fear of being deported.  At the same time, the House Bill also makes it more difficult for Native American women to seek justice against their abusers; the House version also provides no protection for the LGBT community.

As for the elimination of protections for immigrant women, it is argued that this may be the only way to prevent fraud and abuse of the system by women seeking citizenship in the United States.  However, it is countered that all visa applications from immigrant victims already go through extensive review and require extensive documentation.  

With such limitations put in place by the House of Representatives, the Violence Against Women Act will cease to protect women from abuse as the original Act intended.  The House ignores the needs of immigrant women, Native Americans and the LGBT community, classes of women that need at least the same protection as all other female citizens.  And the justification of preventing fraud by immigrant women seems unfounded; this Act has already been renewed twice without previous Congresses feeling the need to add such limitations, and safeguards are already in place in the visa process to reduce the risk of fraud.  It is believed that the House version of this Bill will be vetoed without removing the restrictions, restoring the Act to its original intentions.  Whether through veto or other manner, hopefully the House and Senate can reach agreement on renewing the Act in a way that will ensure protection for all.

Further information can be found at these articles from the Huffington Post and Los Angeles Times

Thursday, May 10, 2012

President Obama Supports Gay Marriage

In the wake of North Carolina’s vote on a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in the state, some positive news arose for same sex couples and gay right activists on Wednesday. Previously, Vice President Joe Biden had expressed his opinion that same sex couples should be allowed to marry, and yesterday President Barack Obama (finally) expressed his support of same sex marriage.

The President stated that “he had weighed the teachings of his Christian faith against a growing pro-marriage consensus among younger Americans — a key target group for his reelection campaign.” Administration officials also stated that Obama planned to make his express support of gay marriage known prior to the Democratic National Convention, but the announcement was moved up due to Vice President Biden’s Sunday comments on “Meet the Press”.

President Obama had previously stated that his views on same sex marriage were “evolving”, and many had believed that he was a supporter of same sex marriage. The President has previously shown he was pro-gay with action such as repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”; however, the President also has come under criticism from gay rights activists when he stated he did not plan to sign legislation that would ban discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Until yesterday, the failure of the President to express his viewpoint on the topic was beginning to create tension amongst gay right activists.

Some view this statement as a possible election strategy: hoping that an express support of gay marriage will bring in the votes to ensure the President’s re-election. However, there are many that say this statement may actually chase away supporters, and believe that, due to this possible alienation of voters, this statement must be the President’s true opinion.

The Washington Post, along with this article on the President’s statement, has this article discussing the divide in the community this statement has made. Some who supported the President during his first election and were proud to support an African American President now say that they “don’t believe in skin color more than [they] believe in God’s word.” Some believe that the statement will not outweigh his other acts as President, and some believe that the President may change his mind on the subject before the election. And some people believe that, no matter the motivation behind the statement, this was the right thing to do.

No matter the motivation, this will most certainly open voters’ eyes and give them something additional to consider when casting their ballots in November. Until then, it is impossible to know the full effect of the President’s statement. And even then, it will be impossible to tell whether this statement was a deciding factor in how people voted, or if it is merely one additional action that people feel added to the President’s accomplishments or was just another negative aspect of his Presidency.

No matter the outcome of this November’s election, it is my opinion that it is definitely a positive to finally have somebody in such an authority position take a stand in support of gay rights; while this may not affect how I vote in November, it gives me hope that the country and its politicians may finally be open to taking measures to protect gay rights.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Employment Discrimination and Gay Rights

With the recent victories in a variety of states regarding same sex marriage, and the apparent support of the current administration, the push towards more expansive rights for homosexuals seemed promising. While much work remains to be done in establishing equal rights and protects for homosexuals, the necessary support for progress seemed in place. However, the New York Times yesterday published an article stating that President Obama has decided not to sign an Executive Order protecting homosexuals from discrimination by employers with federal contracts.

“Current law does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and legislation to do so, which Mr. Obama endorses, lacks sufficient votes in Congress.” Previously, President Obama has issued Executive Orders regarding several issues which he asserted that “we can’t wait” for passage by the Republican-dominated Congress. Supporters of gay rights assert that gay, bisexual and transgender people, to whom such an Executive Order would apply, have a right to be protected from employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation and believe that the “we can’t wait” for Congress to ensure protection of this right. Instead, the article reports that an administration official has stated that, “We support legislation that has been introduced and we will continue to work with Congressional sponsors to build support for it.”

President Obama has not yet publicly endorsed same sex marriage, but he has been a proponent of initiatives such as repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The President also continues to advocate for “an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” However, it is unlikely that the current Republican-led Congress will pass any such Bills which would add gender identification or sexual orientation to the list of classes protected from employment discrimination. It surely seems that this is exactly the type of policy that falls under President Obama’s “we can’t wait” drive, and yet the President is taking the wait-and-see approach.

Admittedly there may be many other legitimate reasons for not issuing the Executive Order at this time. All that is certain is that gay, bisexual and transgendered people should not be subject to employment discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation and it is unlikely that such protections will be afforded to these groups as promptly as they should be.