Obama to sign order extending gays’ protections


WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of pressure from gay rights
groups, President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order banning
federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis
of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the White House said
While Obama lacks the authority to extend that protection
to all Americans, the order being drafted by the White House would
impact about 14 million workers whose employers or states currently do
not ban workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender individuals. The scope of the measure was tabulated by the
Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, which studies sexual orientation
and gender identity law and public policy.
The president has
resisted signing the order in hopes Congress would pass a broader
non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers.
While the Senate passed the legislation last year, the measure has
languished in the Republican-led House and there is little sign that
lawmakers will take it up in an election year.
"We’ve been waiting
for quite a few months now for the House to take action and
unfortunately there are no particularly strong indications that Congress
is prepared to act on this," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The White House’s announcement was a significant victory for gay rights advocates, who widely praised
Obama’s decision.
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 Chad Griffin, president of the Human
Rights Campaign.
Officials would not say when Obama would sign
the order or why the administration was taking the unusual step of
previewing his plans for issuing such a measure.
The announcement
comes a day before Obama attends the Democratic National Committee’s
annual gay and lesbian fundraiser in New York. While the president has
widespread political support among the LGBT community, advocates have
become increasingly irritated with the president’s reluctance to move
forward with the order.
Their frustration mounted earlier this
year when Obama responded to gridlock on Capitol Hill by touting plans
to take executive actions on issues that Congress would not act on. That
included signing executive orders that raise the minimum wage for
federal contractors and expanding the number of contractors who would be
eligible for overtime pay.
White House officials never explained
why Obama moved quickly on the wage-related executive orders but delayed
taking action on the anti-discrimination provision.
decision could energize progressive voters in a midterm election year
where Republicans are seeking to retake control of the Senate. The DNC
and several Democratic lawmakers highlighted the president’s
announcement Monday and used it to try to draw a distinction with
Republicans were largely silent on the decision,
though Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch called on the White House to include the
same religious exemptions in the order that are included in the
legislation the Senate passed last year. The bill includes exemptions
for churches and other houses or worship, as well as religiously
affiliated organizations.
While the White House did not release
the specific language of the order Obama will sign, advocates expect it
to be in line with measures signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that
banned federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race,
religion, and national origin. It’s unclear whether Obama’s order will
include religious exemptions.
The American public has increasingly
grown supportive of extending gay rights.
Courts have also
increasingly come down in favor of same-sex marriage, with more than a
dozen federal and state judges striking down part of all of state-level
bans over the past seven months. No rulings have gone the other way.
advocates say there remains gaping inequality on the issue of workplace
discrimination. According to the Human Rights Campaign, it is legal in
29 states to fire or refuse employment to a person based on sexual
orientation. Thirty-two states also lack explicit laws banning
discrimination based on gender identity.

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