Today President Barak Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for federal contractors and employees.
The order covers about 30,000 companies with 28 million workers. The order does not extend to the private sector which would have been covered under a bill currently working its way through Congress.
The current order expands on two earlier orders. The first was signed by Lyndon Johnson covering federal contractors that banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The second, signed by Richard Nixon, extended those protections to federal employees. Obama’s order extends the protections to all LGBT people employed by the federal government or by a company that is a federal contractor.
The president’s order leaves an order signed by George Bush intact that allows preference to be given to people that share a religious affiliation in areas where it applies, such as for clergy. It does not allow anyone to use religious beliefs as a way to discriminate.
The order was signed over objections from certain conservative religious organization that wanted wide reaching exemptions. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council told Fox News, “The mask is coming off of the homosexual movement’s agenda. They really do not believe in religious liberty. They want forced affirmation of homosexual and transgender conduct to trump every other consideration in the workplace – including religious liberty.”
Not all religious organizations agree with Peter Sprigg. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches said, “Using religious exemptions as a smokescreen for discrimination is the kind of persecution the First Amendment to the Constitution helps us to avoid. Everyone loves religious liberty, but we dare not confuse sincere prejudice with sincere religion. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people know that exemption from the law is a dangerous by-product of religious bigotry, not religious liberty.”