Washington Markup

President Obama: The Time Has Come for a Federal Contractors Non-Discrimination Executive Order

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:01am

In a Metro Weekly exclusive published on Thursday afternoon, Chris Geidner writes that President Obama, as a candidate for the office in 2008, specifically endorsed an executive order to ensure that federal contractors do not discriminate against applicants and employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As Geidner writes:

Obama, as a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to run for president in 2008, was asked by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus if he would support a "formal written policy of non-discrimination that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression ... for all Federal contractors."

Obama's response — according to the survey, a copy of which was provided exclusively to Metro Weekly on condition of anonymity — was one word: "Yes."

The impact that such an executive order would have on LGBT workers is immense, and provides the opportunity to create a tipping point moment with employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. An executive order on contractors, when combined with existing workplace protections provided by state laws in many states and by federal law for federal workers, would likely mean that, for the first time in history, more than half of all American workers would have legally binding workplace rights. And with federal contractors employing people in all 50 states, there would be at least some workplaces in every state where employees would have legally binding protections against discrimination.

The ACLU views this executive order as the single most important step that President Obama could take this year to eradicate anti-LGBT discrimination from American workplaces. The chorus of voices calling for this executive order grows louder each day, and currently includes the editorial page of the Washington Post. Candidate Obama was right to endorse this executive order in 2008. It's time for President Obama to issue it.

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