John M. Becker

BREAKING: Obama Will Sign ENDA Executive Order

Filed By John M. Becker | June 16, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, ENDA, ENDA executive order, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey, Task Force

Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama.jpgAfter coming under intense pressure from LGBT advocates, organizations, members of Congress, and the media -- and in the face of inaction from an obstinate GOP-controlled House of Representatives on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) -- President Obama will sign an executive order forbidding businesses that receive federal contracts from discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace. A White House official tells The Bilerico Project that the President has directed his staff to prepare the order for his signature, and that it will be similar to rules prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Federal contractors account for more than 20 percent of the American workforce; the Williams Institute reports that the President's forthcoming executive order will protect an additional 14 million LGBT workers from discrimination.

NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey released the following statement:

"This is a major step forward in the struggle for freedom and justice for LGBTQ workers and their families. Now millions of people will have the economic security they need to provide for their families. Through his actions, the President has demonstrated again his commitment to ending discrimination. We thank all the organizations who have worked so hard to make this piece of history. This decision is good for LGBTQ people, good for our economy and good for America. Unfortunately, many of us who don't work for federal contractors will still lack workplace protections. Now we must redouble our efforts for the urgent passage of state employment protections and strong federal legislation."

No information has yet been released about a potential signing ceremony, but if I had to speculate, my guess is that Monday, June 30 -- the date of the LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House -- is a likely possibility.

UPDATE I: ThinkProgress has additional details:

The order, expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, is an extension of orders previously issued by past presidents -- most recently Johnson -- similarly banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin among all contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in business with the government in any one year.

The protections will reach over one million LGBT workers across the country, making it the single largest expansion of LGBT workplace protections in our country's history. There continue to be 29 states that offer no employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 with no protections based on gender identity, but many LGBT workers in those states will now have workplace protections for the first time ever. As many as 43 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

As we've previously reported here at Bilerico, employment protections for LGBT people enjoy widespread public support, including from nearly two-thirds of small business owners. In fact, as many as 90 percent of Americans believe LGBT people already have these protections under federal law. But no such federal law exists, and between the anti-LGBT Republican-controlled House of Representatives (which is determined to obstruct President Obama's entire legislative agenda) and an LGBT movement that is increasingly abandoning the current version of ENDA because of its troubling and unprecedented religious exemptions, a law isn't likely to be passed anytime soon.

In addition to the lack of federal-level workplace protections, LGBT workers also lack state-level protections against discrimination in a majority of states across the country. In 29 states it's perfectly legal to fire or refuse to hire someone just because they're lesbian, gay, or bisexual. If you're trans, that number rises to 32.

One of the federal contractors that will be most noticeably affected by President Obama's forthcoming order is ExxonMobil, which receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars yet steadfastly refuses to enact policies that would ensure workplace fairness for LGBT workers. Just last month, ExxonMobil shareholders rejected a proposed LGBT non-discrimination resolution for the 17th time. But unless ExxonMobil wants to risk losing its lucrative federal contracts, it's going to have to finally drag itself into the 21st century and adopt LGBT-inclusive employment policies.

UPDATE II: Reactions from other LGBT organizations are after the jump.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin

"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. The White House statement today is promising, and we look forward to seeing the details of the executive order."

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling

"This Executive Order will be a very important piece of the comprehensive anti-discrimination protections our community has been working for and winning. Title VII sex discrimination protections have been helpful, passing state and local laws have been helpful, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will be helpful, and, very soon, this Executive Order will be helpful. This has been a remarkable month of win after win, both culturally and politically, for transgender people."

Pride at Work Interim Executive Director Jerame Davis

"We are glad the president is taking this important step to protect federal contractor employees from discrimination on the job. But unfortunately for many Americans - especially in states with no employment discrimination protections - their only option for workplace protections is still a strong union contract.

"Congress still must act to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ensure that all LGBT Americans are protected from workplace discrimination. Only 18 states currently ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity while three other states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation alone. With marriage equality sweeping the nation, it is unconscionable that gays and lesbians could still be fired for putting a photo of their legal spouse on their desk at work."

GetEQUAL Co-Director Heather Cronk

"We're thrilled that the White House is finally taking action on LGBT workplace discrimination -- action that is long overdue, but that will finally begin to address the enormous hurdles that LGBT individuals face in finding and keeping a job in this country. It is now vitally important for all of us to insist that this executive order, when eventually signed by the president, does not include religious exemptions that would permit taxpayer dollars to be spent on discrimination. We will continue to be vigilant about this important aspect of the executive order -- LGBT Americans need these protections immediately, and without the gaping holes that exemptions would create."

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero

"This is a historic announcement. President Obama's commitment to LGBT equality will be one of his lasting legacies. This President has done more for the struggle for LGBT equality than all previous presidents combined. For more than 70 years, presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have used executive orders to eradicate taxpayer-funded discrimination in the workplace. Issuing this executive order will build upon a tradition that dates back to President Roosevelt's 1941 order conditioning defense contracts on an agreement not to discriminate based on race, creed, color, or national origin. Barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity with taxpayer funds by all federal contractors will begin to undo one of the last vestiges of legally sanctioned discrimination."

National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell

"We are elated at the news that the President has directed his staff to begin drafting a Presidential Executive Order to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination by employers who work with the federal government. In 32 states LGBT people still have no protections against job loss and adverse actions at work based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The President's promise to sign an Executive Order barring discrimination in employment for a large swath of employers will provide a significant number of LGBT workers the security of knowing they can support themselves and their families."

Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida

"This executive order is a tremendous step forward in the campaign to give LGBT Americans a fair shot to build a successful career being judged on their talent and hard work ­ nothing more and nothing less. We applaud President Obama for fulfilling his campaign promise to bring LGBT workplace protections to the employees of the companies that profit from federal contracts,"

"The most immediate impact of this news should be felt at ExxonMobil's corporate headquarters in Dallas, where the Exxon executives who have fought against LGBT protections for years will finally have to reconsider their retrograde position if they want to continue profiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts. We predict Exxon will finally cave to pressure."

1AngryOldLesbian.org Co-Founder Cathy Kristofferson

"We are thrilled the President is seriously considering signing the long awaited Executive Order for sexual orientation and gender identity protections for federal contractors, though we have concerns about any religious exemptions the White House would include.

Unfortunately, the present version of ENDA which passed the Senate last Fall was amended by Senators Ayotte and Portman to protect religiously affiliated federal contractors who legally discriminate against LGBT employees from retaliation by the federal government, thus gutting the as yet unsigned Executive Order.

"We cannot accept this version of ENDA or an Executive Order which includes religious exemptions beyond those included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Julian Bond has cautioned us against it and the women's rights community (Hobby Lobby decision expected later this month) is furious with the LGBT community for sitting back accepting the broad religious exemptions contained in ENDA 2013.

"We worry that thanks to the Ayotte/Portman amendment, Speaker Boehner will hurry to get this to the House floor. A golden opportunity to legally discriminate against the LGBT community might be too attractive for him to pass up.

"1AngryOldLesbian.org strongly opposes any legislation or governmental action which legalizes discrimination. We strongly oppose the current version of ENDA and encourage others who only artfully craft language stating they oppose the exemptions, but still support the bill, to come out strongly and work with those of us campaigning to kill ENDA 2013."

Note: 1AngryOldLesbian.org is the organization responsible for many of the most colorful grassroots protests in favor of a broad ENDA executive order.

National Black Justice Coalition CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks

"I celebrate this moment knowing that millions of LGBT workers will have protections for the first time in history. It is simply unacceptable that LGBT workers in many parts of our nation can still be unfairly refused employment, harassed at work or even fired for just being who they are. NBJC applauds the Obama Administration for doing the right thing and protecting LGBT workers any way possible until we can get an all-inclusive, non-discrimination law to protect LGBT people passed by Congress.

"Black LGBT people are significantly disadvantaged when they lack protections in the workplace. NBJC will not rest until all qualified American workers have the ability and right to secure a good, quality job to take care of self and family."

American Military Partner Association President Stephen Peters

"While it's great news that LGBT federal contractors will soon be protected, it is far past time to include sexual orientation in the Defense Department's non-discrimination policy for uniformed troops and not just civilians. Failing to include this protection exposes our service members' careers to the prejudice of bigoted viewpoints and provides a roadblack to our LGBT military spouses and their families from fully integrating and accessing benefits and support services available to them without fear of discrimination."

Peters is also the spouse of an active-duty U.S. Marine.

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