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Rep. John Lewis Supports Pres. Obama's Action on ENDA

June 16, 2014
Press Release

Rep. John Lewis made this statement today upon hearing that President Obama intends to issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

            "This is a very important step forward," said Rep. John Lewis.  "The federal government, the largest employer in the United States, played a primary role in ending legalized discrimination based on race.  Today President Obama has joined two great presidents by leading this nation to take one more step down a very long road toward laying down the burden of discrimination altogether.

            "In 1941, A. Philip Randolph began organizing what would have been the first March on Washington to underscore his demand that Roosevelt issue an order to stop discrimination within war industries, create equal employment opportunity within those industries, and address the lynching that was rampant in Southern states.  At first, Roosevelt said he could not comply, so Randolph threatened to organize a march 50,000 people strong.

            "Once he realized Randolph was serious, Roosevelt soon issued an executive order ending discrimination in war industries, similar to the role federal contractors play now.  Then, again with Randolph's encouragement, after World War II was over, Truman ordered the integration of the entire federal government due to his concerns about the mistreatment of black veterans. The actions of these two presidents marked the beginning of the end of legalized segregation in government, universities, and the marketplace.

            "Through the executive order President Obama issues today, he is adding to a legacy of presidential leadership.  He is sending a powerful message that discrimination in any form has no place in a democratic society.  It also gives hope to the 9 million LBGT Americans and their loved ones who have had to bear the pain and sorrow of rejection, loss and shame with limited means to make their voices heard."