The White House announced today President Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order prohibiting companies that contract with the federal government from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai"i) sent a letter in March with U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and House LGBT Equality Caucus leadership urging President Obama to issue this executive order, which bans discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees by companies that do business with the federal government. Last year, Schatz cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide the same workplace anti-discrimination protections offered to federal contractor hires in the executive order to all workers. ENDA passed the Senate by a final vote of 64-32 and is awaiting consideration in the House.
"Everyone, regardless of who you are or who you love, deserves the right to go to work and earn a living. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund discrimination," said Senator Schatz. "President Obama's executive order is an important step towards ensuring equal rights for federal contract workers, but we also need the House to act on ENDA and give these same protections to all American workers."
Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and receive about $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year. Currently, 29 states lack laws barring an employer from firing or refusing to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation. In 33 states, over half the country, there is no law that prevents employers from making employment decisions on someone's gender identity. The executive order will protect 11 million more American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and up to 16.5 million more American workers from discrimination based on gender identity, according to the Williams Institute.