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Public Statements

Letter to President Barack Obama - LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Senate colleagues sign a letter calling on President Obama to issue an Executive Order to prohibit such discrimination by federal contractors. Executive orders have banned other forms of employment discrimination by contractors for decades.

"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," wrote the Senators. "By expanding protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors, you would be helping to ensure that all Americans get an equal opportunity to succeed and that federal taxpayer dollars are used to support companies with the best employment practices."

Defense contractors have been prohibited from discriminating on race or national origin since World War II, and broader anti-discrimination bans have been in place on all contractors for almost 50 years. The letter to President Obama today asks him to issue a new Executive Order that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to these long-standing bans.

"An executive order from President Obama would ensure that hundreds of thousands of LGBT federal contract employees could go to work every day without fear of being fired for who they are or who they love," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "I am grateful to these leaders in the Senate for speaking out on behalf of LGBT Americans who want nothing more than a fair shot at a job."

Modifying non-discrimination policies for federal contractors would simply speed up a process of modernizing anti-discrimination policies that has been underway in the private sector for decades. The five largest federal contractors already have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies, as do the majority of the 25 largest federal contractors. However, despite advances in many American workplaces, rates of discrimination against LGBT people remain high. Research shows that up to 43 percent of LGB people and 90 percent of transgender people report having experienced some form of workplace discrimination.

Senator Murray was joined by the following Senators in sending this letter to President Obama:

Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Al Franken (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), William Cowan (D-MA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Text of the letter from the Senators is included below:

February 14, 2013

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write as supporters of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ask that you issue an Executive Order to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. We are committed to enacting legislation to protect all Americans. In the meantime, you are in a position to protect millions of American workers immediately by including sexual orientation and gender identity alongside long-standing anti-discrimination protections.

As you know, ENDA would prohibit most workplaces in the United States from discriminating against potential and existing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. From our perspective, ENDA's premise is simple: it would make federal law reflect the basic principle that Americans should be judged on their skills and abilities in the workplace, and not on irrelevant factors such as their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Currently, an Executive Order prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Signed by President Johnson in 1965, the Executive Order continues to offer important employment protections for many Americans, and is currently enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor.

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. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity would extend equal workplace rights to more than 16 million 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. But doing so would also serve another important purpose, one that is always on our minds as appropriators of Americans' taxpayer dollars, namely, making the most efficient use of federal government resources.

Corporate America continues to demonstrate that creating a level playing field for LGBT workers is a best business practice. In fact, amending the Executive Order would not impose a radical change on federal contractors but would simply speed up a process of modernizing anti-discrimination policies that has been underway in the private sector for decades. The five largest federal contractors -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics -- already have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies, as do the majority of the 25 largest federal contractors. It only makes sense that our government should prioritize the awarding of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on government contracts to those companies with workplace policies proven to be the best.

Of course, making this important change is also a matter of basic fairness. Unfortunately, there are many examples of why issuing an Executive Order is so critically needed. Despite advances in many American workplaces, rates of discrimination against LGBT people remain high. Research shows that up to 43 percent of LGB people and 90 percent of transgender people report having experienced some form of workplace discrimination.

By expanding protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors, you would be helping to ensure that all Americans get an equal opportunity to succeed and that federal taxpayer dollars are used to support companies with the best employment practices. We believe that using our limited resources wisely and efficiently is a principle upon which all Americans can agree. We thank you for considering our request. We appreciate your leadership on ENDA and the many other steps your Administration has taken to ensure the LGBT population receives the same protections and opportunities that all Americans deserve as their birthright.


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