Today, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order protecting federal contract workers from 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 the 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.
"Decisions at work should be made based on job performance, not on who you are or who you love," Senator Schatz said. "President Obama's executive order is an important step towards ending discrimination, but all workers deserve this protection. The Senate has already passed legislation to give all American workers these protections and it's time for the House to do the same.
Last year, Senator 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.
Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and receive about $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year. Today, only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws barring an employer from firing or refusing to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation. 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.