Obama to sign executive order protecting gay, trans staff of federal contractors

The White House has told the Huffington Post that President Obama will (soon?) sign an executive order banning job discrimination by most federal contractors against their gay and transgender employees.  (It will apply to federal contractors who earn more than $10,000 from the government in any one year.)

Gay rights advocates have been pushing for decades to outlaw such discrimination under federal law, where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender (though a number of states and municipalities ban it).

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Gay couple via Shutterstock.

The legislation, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has had a rocky past. While it had some recent success in passing the US Senate last year, some vocal advocates now want that version of the legislation killed, as they say its religious exemption is too broad.

It is unclear whether the President’s executive order will accommodate the most recent demands of ENDA’s progressive critics.

The executive order is expected to impact one million workers:

The White House announced Monday that President Obama is expected to sign an executive order restricting all federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The new order will cover close to 1 million LGBT workers and is a historical expansion of LGBT workplace protections.

By signing this law, the Obama administration’s order will only offer federal protections because right now there are 29 states that do not offer employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 states do not protect gender identity. The statistics are staggering because as many as 43 percent of LGBT people and 90 percent of transgender people have been a victim of some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

It’s not clear how many employees the executive order will affect, as I think 29 states already ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and 32 states ban it for just sexual orientation. So it’s not clear how much overlap there might be with existing state laws, and how many federal contractors already ban such discrimination. The lead group fighting for the executive order doesn’t appear to have any substantive information on its Web site about the executive order itself, which is odd.

There was some uncertainty as to when the President would sign the executive order. The leak to HuffPo simply said he was asking staff to draft the executive order.  But it would be silly to leak that information if the President never intended to go through with signing the document. If it is not signed soon, you can expect a pretty vocal outcry from the gay community.

Top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett tweeted her support today for the executive order, which likely means it is imminent, and not just a rumor:

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The President is going to be giving a speech before a DNC LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) gala in NYC tomorrow. Perhaps he will have more to say on this then.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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