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Topics In the News
 
Equal Rights Groups Call for Executive Order to Ban Discrimination
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/20/13
Last updated on: 02/20/13
 
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On February 20, 2013, more than 50 civil rights, religious, professional, labor, civic, and educational organizations called upon President Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Because of a lack of federal protections, it remains legal in 29 states to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and 34 states lack laws banning discrimination based on gender identity. The letter from the organizations follows a similar letter authored by 37 U.S. Senators, which was released on February 14, 2013.

Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and earn around $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, prohibiting employment discrimination by federal contractors would extend equal workplace rights to 16 million more workers, and would help ensure that they are not forced into the ranks of the unemployed based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

On February 14, a group 37 U.S. Senators, led by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Issuing an Executive Order that includes sexual orientation and gender identity is a critical step that you can take today toward ending discrimination in the workplace," the Senators wrote, in a letter to the President.

In the letter released on February 20, the leaders of more than fifty organizations praised the President's statement in his second inaugural address that "our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law." They then urge him "to take an immediate step toward legal equality by signing an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans."

The letter continues by noting that "Over the past 70 years, both Republican and Democratic presidents have used executive orders to ensure that taxpayer money is not wasted on workplace discrimination or harassment based on characteristics such as race, gender, and religion. These contractor policies exist to this day, and they cover almost one in four jobs throughout the United States. It is now time for an executive order ensuring the same workplace protections for LGBT Americans."

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a press release, "Issuing an executive order is a crucial step toward ending workplace discrimination against LGBT people. After a historic pro-equality first term, President Obama could level the playing field for LGBT employees of federal contractors with the stroke of a pen and ensure they have an equal opportunity to succeed."

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero added, "By banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT Americans, President Obama would extend the commitment to non-discrimination first made by President Roosevelt more than 70 years ago when he signed an executive order integrating the nation's shipyards and other worksites run by defense contractors. Taking this action would result in at least some workplaces in all 50 states having legally binding protections for LGBT Americans--a first in our nation's history."

Tico Almeida, President of Freedom to Work, which spearheaded an online petition asking President Obama to issue the executive order, said that nearly 175,000 Americans have signed the petition. He added, "We are grateful to the dozens of national organizations joining today's letter to urge the President that the time to act is now."

Among the organizations that signed the open letter to President Obama are the following: ACLU, AFL-CIO, Anti-Defamation League, Freedom to Work, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, GetEqual, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal Education and Defense Fund, NAACP, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, OutServe-SLDN, People for the American Way, PFLAG, Service Employees International Union, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The letter and its signatories may be found below.

Letter by

 
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