WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama White House was again the setting of history this morning as the president signed a sweeping executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers from job discrimination.
With the stroke of a pen, the executive order, according to the Human Rights Campaign, will protect transgender federal employees from workplace discrimination by amending an order issued by President Bill Clinton banning sexual orientation discrimination within the federal workforce. In the same order, President Obama will set strong new standards for federal contractors, which employ 20 percent of the American workforce. In so doing, the Obama administration has guaranteed that 14 million more American workers will be protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“With this action, President Obama has cemented his legacy as a transformative leader,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “Consistently, this administration has taken unprecedented and historic executive actions to advance LGBT equality in this country and around the world.”
In dealing with federal contractors, the Obama administration opted out of creating a separate carve-out or standard for LGBT employees. Instead, the President decided to narrowly amend Executive Order 11246, first signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965—putting sexual orientation and gender identity on equal footing with race, color, religion, sex and national origin, thus ensuring these protections are politically toxic for a future administration to undo.
"This decision is good for LGBT people, good for our economy and good for America,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It also speaks volumes about President Obama's resolve to end discrimination in all its guises. Millions more LGBT workers and their families will have the employment protections and economic security they need and deserve. Many organizations have worked extremely hard for this day and they all deserve thanks for this successful effort. We appreciate President Obama treating LGBT people equally with other protected groups. Thank you Mr. President for once again showing leadership and standing firm on your commitment to LGBT people and their families."
These two acts are viewed by many as the keystone of a concerted, six-year effort by the White House to dramatically advance the cause of LGBT equality.
"When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the Human Rights Campaign presented him with the Blueprint for Positive Change—a checklist of actions the Obama administration could take to change the lives of LGBT Americans for the better," the nation's largest LGBT rights organization posted today. "In the years since, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and leaders within every cabinet agency have spearheaded and achieved unprecedented progress on almost every front."
Until recent weeks, Obama had resisted mounting pressure from LGBT and equality organizations to pursue today’s executive anti-discrimination order.
The long lobbied for Employment Non-Discrimination Act – which would have accomplished that goal legislatively – passed the Senate last year with some Republican support, but has not been taken up by the GOP-controlled House.
“We’re here to do what we can to make it right,” Obama said.