Obama to sign executive order protecting gay, trans staff of federal contractors

The White House has told the Huffington Post that President Obama will (soon?) sign an executive order banning job discrimination by most federal contractors against their gay and transgender employees.  (It will apply to federal contractors who earn more than $10,000 from the government in any one year.)

Gay rights advocates have been pushing for decades to outlaw such discrimination under federal law, where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender (though a number of states and municipalities ban it).

gay couple men

Gay couple via Shutterstock.

The legislation, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has had a rocky past. While it had some recent success in passing the US Senate last year, some vocal advocates now want that version of the legislation killed, as they say its religious exemption is too broad.

It is unclear whether the President’s executive order will accommodate the most recent demands of ENDA’s progressive critics.

The executive order is expected to impact one million workers:

The White House announced Monday that President Obama is expected to sign an executive order restricting all federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The new order will cover close to 1 million LGBT workers and is a historical expansion of LGBT workplace protections.

By signing this law, the Obama administration’s order will only offer federal protections because right now there are 29 states that do not offer employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 states do not protect gender identity. The statistics are staggering because as many as 43 percent of LGBT people and 90 percent of transgender people have been a victim of some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

It’s not clear how many employees the executive order will affect, as I think 29 states already ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and 32 states ban it for just sexual orientation. So it’s not clear how much overlap there might be with existing state laws, and how many federal contractors already ban such discrimination. The lead group fighting for the executive order doesn’t appear to have any substantive information on its Web site about the executive order itself, which is odd.

There was some uncertainty as to when the President would sign the executive order. The leak to HuffPo simply said he was asking staff to draft the executive order.  But it would be silly to leak that information if the President never intended to go through with signing the document. If it is not signed soon, you can expect a pretty vocal outcry from the gay community.

Top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett tweeted her support today for the executive order, which likely means it is imminent, and not just a rumor:


The President is going to be giving a speech before a DNC LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) gala in NYC tomorrow. Perhaps he will have more to say on this then.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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36 Responses to “Obama to sign executive order protecting gay, trans staff of federal contractors”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:

    There are millions of us who want change.

  2. dcinsider says:

    Someone has to. Good luck.

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    I oppose accommodation to the political backwardness of Republican and Democrat politicians. I fight for a better world.

  4. dcinsider says:

    In a perfect world . . . .

    I live in this world.

  5. KathleenKennettiel says:

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  6. Bill_Perdue says:


    A CRA would concentrate on us, but also our allies – women, people of color and immigrant workers. The more the merrier and the easier it would be to build a mass movement for equality.

  7. dcinsider says:

    Now that we’ve missed out on 5 years of these protections, at least we can have 2 years before the EO is repealed by President Santorum.

  8. dcinsider says:

    As well as one-armed pirates!

    I have a better idea, let’s focus just on us for a change. ENDA for the LGB community is a big enough lift. Period.

  9. future_man says:

    By the late seventies many of us in the Phyllis Lyons, Del Martin/Harvey Milk generation had federal gay rights protections on the front burner…and were actively working for it…so the thirty plus year wait has been a long one…that said, it is understandable that people who have felt something was due them in 2008 would be upset.

    When it comes to civil rights no one should ever have to wait for the right thing to be done…though some have had to wait since the last century…with a big disease thing intervening…that is human history.

    I for one am very happy for the next generation coming up…they have what looks like a much safer, healthier, happier deal. Some of us are happy to survive & see the better world we worked for then coming to fruition. Just like people like Harvey, Phyllis and Dell were happy for me. Their smile said that to anyone who met them…..Peace.

  10. jomicur says:

    Okay. Cool.

  11. Moderator3 says:

    Just hit the flag button. The comment is not necessary.

  12. jomicur says:

    What he did NOT promise in ’08 was a religious exemption. We’ll just have to wait and see how broad it is, but I don’t think I’m alone in expecting the worst.

  13. jomicur says:

    Flagged as spam

  14. jomicur says:

    We should switch of our analytical faculties because this isn’t about AIDS? Um…okay.

  15. jomicur says:

    Agreed. Obama, like most politicians, rarely (if ever) does anything out of principle. Between his need for some good PR, both in general and specifically about sending troops back to Iraq, plus fundraising/vote-getting in an election year, I find it impossible to think he’s doing this out of purely altruistic motives.

  16. lillianhoward says:

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  17. KathleenKennettiel says:

    My Uncle
    Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
    with a laptop. visit their website F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  18. jared says:

    Our current congress is a mess, no argument here… But I guess it just gives me anxiety to have enforceable laws set by a single person. This is most likely a matter of personal choice, but I’d rather take my chances with significantly slower progress in our degenerate congress than hand over the power of regression to a potential Bachmann, Palin or the like.

  19. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Do EOs really set a dangerous precedent? There have been over thirteen thousand EOs, and yet we survive. It’s not an overreaching power, since it has been used since George Washington’s administration. Having congress steer the “behavior of our society” is a great idea if we had a congress that would do something other than have hearings and repeatedly passing laws to try and bring down the Affordable Care Act.

    Will there be future EOs that we don’t like? Sure. Such is life.

  20. jared says:

    Thrilled with the specific action at hand but terrified of the unintended consequences by the method. Every EO continues setting dangerous precedent. If we’re going to drive the behavior of our society by EO, why have a congress at all? It’s not hard for me to see a far right-wing lunatic in office some day soon shoving a sick agenda down our throats by EO, just as the far right-wing believes that Obama is shoving a sick agenda down their throats. The only check for EO is that there is a constitutional basis, but our government under both parties seem to be content, and getting away with obvious Constitutional violations. Over-reaching powers go both ways… this is risky business. In general, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and in general, “the end doesn’t justify the means,” especially when it continues to pry open the door to other, potentially more dangerous “ends.”

  21. MyrddinWilt says:

    More likely it has to do with the fact that with Cantor gone the chattering beltway classes can’t claim that Obama should try harder to get something through Congress.

    At this point it is game over for any action in Congress this year other than passing continuing resolutions. There will be no legislation and no budget. Just endless resolutions to impeach Benghaziiicare. The purpose of the leak is to tell everyone that the administration has completely given up on Congress.

    An executive order ENDO is better than nothing but it only covers a tenth the number of employees that ENDA would and it can be cancelled by a future GOP president.

  22. FLL says:

    Perhaps this is off-topic (which is why I’m posting it separately), but when I mentioned below that both Obama and LBJ were led by American society before they acted on civil rights (as opposed to FDR and Truman who acted in advance of American society), it reminded me of that snide crack that Hillary made about how it took a president, LBJ, to make civil rights happen for African-Americans. Her comment came off sounding like this:

    You silly little African-Americans, your efforts on your own behalf were amusing, but it was only Great Pharaoh LBJ who gave you your civil rights. You may kiss his feet. And as far as you silly little gay and lesbian people, please remember that I am Great Pharaoh’s wife and make the appropriate conclusions. I will permit you to kiss my feet in due course.

    No surprise that there was quite a bit of pushback from so many people who reminded Hillary that Martin Luther King Jr. might have had just a little bit to do with the effort. There is something about HIllary’s tone during that snafu that was like nails on a chalkboard.

  23. future_man says:

    Try to lighten up everyone….I’ll take this headline over “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals”…NYTimes July 3, 1981….Pls. note…this is a better July headline and it’s not even July yet!

  24. FLL says:

    I think the timing has more to do with the annual gay and lesbian fundraiser in NYC than anything else—in other words, the Gay ATM. This proves the power of the Gay ATM in twisting arms.

  25. Houndentenor says:

    I hate to act ungrateful, but he promised this in 2008. It’s a little late. Welcome and congratulations and all that but I’m annoyed that he drug this out this long. Obama has wasted too much of his presidency trying to appease people who are going to hate him no matter what he does. Perhaps he will spend the last two years making good on all the unkept promises (like this one).

  26. AndyinChicago says:

    This timing is suspect. I wonder if they kept this in their back pocket to play whenever the right was upset about something that would gain traction among average Americans, like deterioration of the situation in Iraq and issues with Gitmo/prisoner release, to bring the ire from the far right on an issue that they look out of touch with the rest of society. I feel I’m being a little cynical, but this should have been done in 2009; there has to be a reason for this ridiculously late timing.

  27. BeccaM says:

    Looks like only the smallest of employers wouldn’t be covered — 50 employees or less. Still, the point is taken, it should be universal. And there should be an ENDA law. But this is still way better than the status quo.

    The part not being mentioned is the proposed requirement that employers also extend family benefits to the partners and spouses of gay and lesbian employees, including access to health insurance. That’s a big deal.

  28. BeccaM says:

    It’s about effin’ time. This could’ve been done during his first month in office, in 2009.

    And I’m sorry, but allowing discrimination to continue is never a strategy that will shame or persuade Congress to act. It didn’t work with the DOMA repeal, wasn’t a factor in the DADT repeal, and wasn’t ever going to work with ENDA either. After the 2010 mid-terms, it should have been self-evident the Republicans were never going to pass ENDA — not with their official party platform being “We hate gay people.”

    Anyway, glad to see this finally happening.

  29. 2karmanot says:

    “banning job discrimination by most federal contractors” ‘By most’? How very 11ty dimensional. The ‘by most’ will be very lucky.

  30. FLL says:

    Now that is one impressive (and insightful) avatar.

  31. FLL says:

    An executive order protecting about one fourth of the country’s workforce is a good start. An executive order also adds momentum to the push for a legislative solution, just as the executive orders that FDR and Truman signed added momentum to the push for civil rights. So in the cases of FDR, Truman, LBJ and Obama, who led—the president or the American society in general? I think I’ll call them as I see them. In the cases of LBJ and Obama, society in general clearly led. During the era of LBJ and Truman, however, the larger society was still dead set against equal rights for African-Americans, and during the 1930s and 1940s, there was no “mass movement” for civil rights among African-Americans to speak of; their priorities during that era were to reduce the incidence of lynching. FDR and Truman were ahead of American society when they issued their executive orders in support of civil rights.

    I remain suspicious of the possible lobbying efforts on the part of fundamentalist and traditionalist Christians, as do many others on this blog. That brings up the question of why Christian churches got into the hospital and educational sectors in the first place. The Catholic Church got involved in healthcare and education during the Middle Ages, but this isn’t the Middle Ages anymore. Therefore, there is no reason why people should be fired from schools or hospitals for being gay. Does anyone know how anti-gay discrimination in Catholic-owned schools and hospitals is handled in Canada and Western Europe? A comparison would be enlightening.

  32. Norman Dostal says:

    GREAT news-all Americans can get behind this! Protection for all citizens in the workplace!

  33. SharonB says:

    That sound? the sound of Right Wing bigot heads exploding in rage.

  34. Indigo says:

    It’s about time! I had begun to think that he’d wait until he was on his way out the door at the end of his term.

  35. Monte Logan says:

    There is not a single part of this comment that I did not agree with

  36. Bill_Perdue says:

    Good, they need those protections and they’ve needed them for the last six years. He promised this in 2008 and he sure took his sweet time.

    I hope none of the rumored religious exemptions are part of it, because one of the main sources of on-the-job discrimination comes from the schools and medical facilities run by the cults.

    Now we need to craft an new version of ENDA, a much better version, or even better, a robust Civil Rights Amendment for ourselves, people of color, women and immigrant and imported workers.

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