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White House drafts Executive Order protecting LGBT employees

President Obama
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

LGBT rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and GetEQUAL have campaigned for years to have President Obama sign an Executive Order barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation; however Obama has maintained the position that Congress should pass an all-inclusive bill instead. That is until today. In a surprising move, President Obama directed White House staff to begin drafting an Executive Order that would require all recipients of federal contracts to have policies that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"We are elated at the news that the President has directed his staff to begin drafting a Presidential Executive Order to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination by employers who work with the federal government,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq. “In 32 states LGBT people still have no protections against job loss and adverse actions at work based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The President's promise to sign an Executive Order barring discrimination in employment for a large swath of employers will provide a significant number of LGBT workers the security of knowing they can support themselves and their families."

“By issuing an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people, the President will not only create fairer workplaces across the country, he will demonstrate to Congress that adopting federal employment protections for LGBT people is good policy and good for business,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The White House statement today is promising, and we look forward to seeing the details of the executive order.”

Currently, there are no federal laws or regulations that explicitly ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is legal in 29 states to fire or refuse employment to a person based on sexual orientation, and it is legal to do the same in 32 states based on gender identity. While an Executive Order will not protect all LGBT employees in the country, it will prohibit companies that contract with the federal government from discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to HRC, Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce – 28 million workers – and collect around $500 billion in federal contracts every year. An executive order would protect 11 million more American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and up to 14 million more workers based on gender identity.

“Countless LGBT workers across the country will be able to rest easier once a strong executive order is in place, but there is no denying that the time has come to do even more,” said Griffin. “The House of Representatives must seize this opportunity to immediately pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and we will continue to fight for the greatest number of civil rights protections for the greatest number of LGBT people around the country.”

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