President Barack Obama is drafting and will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The executive order is predicted to affect 14 million employees whose employers or states currently do not ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately the President does not have the authority to extend these protections to the general population and had resisted signing the order, waiting instead for Congress to pass an employment non-discrimination act which would be far broader and apply to the majority of employers.
Unsurprisingly, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said while the Senate passed the legislation last year, the measure hit a major roadblock in the Republican majority House.
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.
The announcement of the executive order was well received by some large LGBT+ rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign. Its president, Chad Griffin, expressed hope that the executive order would signal to Congress that the body needed to move on a broader non-discrimination law.
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.
While the executive order is a start, unfortunately, with a population of 144 million individuals in the work force, that means only 10% of workers in the United States will be covered. According to the Human Rights Campaign, it is still legal in 29 states to fire or refuse employment to a person based on sexual orientation, while in 32 states it is still legal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity.
Still, a start is a start. And it's more than we have ever had before.
Image via Getty.