Today, 37 members of the U.S. Senate – led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) – sent a letter to the White House urging President Obama to issue an executive order to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. The senators, all of whom are supporters of the long sought Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), rightly describe the executive order as a "critical step that you can take today toward ending discrimination in the workplace."
In writing about the senators' letter for The Washington Post, Greg Sargent took note of the "enormous" significance of the proposed executive order, which would be yet another landmark milestone along the road "towards making the ideal of full equality before the law a reality."
The ACLU included the executive order as the top first 100 day civil liberties recommendations for President Obama's second term. It is the single most important step that President Obama could take over the next four years on his own to eradicate LGBT discrimination in America's workplaces. It has been estimated that it would cover a fifth of the entire U.S. labor force, and, with federal contractors employing people in all 50 states, would ensure that there were at least some workplaces in every state with legally binding protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
All American workers who stand side-by-side at the workplace and contribute with equal measure in their jobs deserve to also stand on the same equal footing under the law. This executive order would represent a critical step forward for this most basic standard of workplace fairness. As the chorus of voices in support of the executive order continues to grow, the time for action from President Obama is now.