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72 House lawmakers to Obama: Sign ENDA executive order

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WASHINGTON — A group of 72 U.S. House members are calling on President Obama to take administrative action to institute federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the workplace.

In a letter dated April 2, the lawmakers ask Obama to issue an executive order requiring companies doing business with the U.S. government to have non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This order would extend important workplace protections to millions of Americans, while at the same time laying the groundwork for Congressional passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a goal that we share with you,” the lawmakers write.

The executive order is similar in its goal to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would bar job bias. The directive has sometimes been referred to as the “ENDA” executive order, although the order would be more limited in scope because it only affects federal contractors.

The letter recalls that President Johnson in 1965 issued Executive Order 11246, which similarly banned discrimination among federal contractors for workers based on color, religion, sex and national origin, and says this order “continues to stand as an important protection.”

“The opportunity to expand protections against workplace discrimination to members of the LGBT community is a critical step that you can take today, especially when data and research tell us that 43 percent of LGB people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination,” the lawmakers write.

Lawmakers also make the case for the executive order by citing data that the majority of the 25 largest federal contractors have already adopted these policies and polling shows a majority of American people support such action.

“The majority of the 50 largest corporations in America, for example, say that adopting inclusive workplace practices — such as adding sexual orientation and gender identity to corporate non-discrimination statements — helps attract the best talent, reduce employee turnover, and overall is a plus to their bottom lines,” the letter states.

The letter also notes that the military contractor DynCorp agreed to adopt an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy after media reports were published about a straight employee who allegedly endured anti-gay harassment working there and an online petition demanding the company make the change received 50,000 signatures.

Multiple sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told the Blade the Labor and Justice Departments have cleared such a measure. The White House hasn’t said whether it will issue the executive order and didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the letter.

The letter was circulated among House members by retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as well as Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.).

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work and chief advocate of the executive order, commended Pallone and other House members for who signed their names in support of the executive order.

“Now that more than 110,000 people have signed the Freedom to Work online petition, more than 70 members of Congress have signed Mr. Pallone’s letter, and 73% of the American people have expressed support for this policy in recent polling, it is clear that ‘We Can’t Wait’ any longer for the president to sign the executive order adding LGBT workplace protections to millions of American jobs,” Almeida said.

Among the signers are the four openly gay members of Congress: Frank, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.). The letter marks the first time that Frank, Baldwin and Cicilline have publicly articulated support for the directive.

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