An executive order will be signed on Monday that prevents federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) workers with very limited exceptions.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said:
"With two strokes of a pen, the President will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of LGBT people across the country."It's a thorny issue these days; lobbyists for the religious community, even among Barack Obama's supporters, have pushed for hiring exemptions which would allow religion-based organizations with federal contracts the right to discriminate against gay or transgender employees. But gay rights supporters have asked for a limitation on those exemptions, and their request has been met.
As LGBTQNation.com points out, exemptions already in place for religious contractors will not change but no new exemptions will be made; for jobs where an individual's religion matters, these contractors will be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religious bias but not for sexual preference -- i.e., a Christian contractor could refuse to hire a worker for being an atheist, but not because they are gay or transgender. When it comes to nonreligious jobs, gender identity or sexual preferences cannot be used as a reason for firing or refusing to hire a worker.
This executive order for LGBT Anti-Discrimination, which will probably take effect in early 2015, affects 24,000 companies for a collective employment of 28 million people, which is one-fifth of the nation's workforce.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, this new executive order will amend two previous presidents' orders, orders which have been modified in the past by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Lyndon B. Johnson signed a law into effect in 1965 prohibiting federal contractors from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or nationality. Obama will amend the list of protections to further include sexual orientation and gender identity; he will also amend Richard Nixon's 1969 orders which prevented hiring discrimination based on age or disability.
It's estimated by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School that, while 21 states and many federal contractors already have policies set in place which bar discrimination against gay employees, this executive order might extend protection for a further 14 million whose places of employment do not have regulations set in place.
Obama is the first American president to ever use the word "transgender" in a speech, a monumental event in a country divided by social debates on topics such as marriage equality.
Despite Christian lobbyists' citing the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision as an open door for religious discrimination against the LGBT community, this executive order changes nothing in the Hobby Lobby case itself, where federal contracts and federal employees are not involved.
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