Earlier this summer, President Obama made it clear that he would do everything in his power to protect LGBT employees’ rights in the workplace. And now, news reports have revealed that Obama has signed an executive order into law that bans workplace discrimination in the federal sector.
According to the White House Blog, Obama signed the order into law Monday at the White House, telling the crowd in front of him that signing the order, which amends Executive Order 11246 issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories was simply the right thing to do.
“It doesn’t make much sense,” President Obama said, “but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. And that’s wrong.”
Obama’s new executive order, which affects 24,000 companies employing roughly 28 million workers, works in two ways: It makes it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it explicitly bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government.
“America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” Obama said during remarks.
Another advantage of the executive order is that it doesn’t include a sweeping religious exemption. Former President George W. Bush amended an executive order in 2002 to allow religiously affiliated federal contractors to prioritize hiring employees of their particular religion, but Obama’s executive order makes no such amendments.
However, the executive order only protects employees in the federal sector. Outside of government companies or contractors, it is currently still legal in 32 states to fire or harass someone at work for being LGBT.
Congress could bolster President Obama’s LGBT equality efforts by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban LGBT discrimination in the workplace across the board. ENDA has already passed in the Senate, but Speaker John Boehner,
R-Ohio, has refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the House.
Obama urged his supporters to continue to pressure Congress to pass ENDA into law.
“I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act,” the president said. “The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.”
We applaud President Obama on making good on his 2008 campaign promise to target federal contractors when it comes to ending workplace discrimination. And we hope he continues to push for better LGBT rights and resources, especially in regards to health care. – nicholas robinson