President Obama will sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against gays, lesbians and others on the basis of their sexual orientation – an election-year move that follows years of pressure by gay rights organizations.
Obama’s decision to proceed with the executive order, announced Monday by the White House, immediately delighted gay rights groups, even as it signaled that Obama doesn’t believe broader action by Congress is likely. Obama is set to address a fundraiser hosted by the Democratic National Committee’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender council Tuesday in New York.
“The President has directed his staff to prepare for his signature an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” a White House official said in a statement. “The action would build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This is consistent with the President’s views that all Americans, LGBT or not, should be treated with dignity and respect.”
White House officials didn’t detail the timing of the executive order, which Obama originally promised to pursue in his 2008 campaign. For years since, he has declined to issue the order, citing other administration efforts to advance gay rights and a desire to avoid interfering with efforts in Congress to pass the broader Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination against gays in the workplace. The Senate has passed ENDA, but the House has declined.