WASHINGTON — A group 37 U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), on Thursday called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“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,” the Senators wrote, in a letter to Obama.
Because of a lack of federal protections, it remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in more than half the country – 29 states – and to base those same employment decisions on someone’s gender identity in 34 states; federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and earn around $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year.
“It’s outrageous that in the year 2013, it is still legal to fire someone based on who they love,” said Merkley. “The President can protect millions of workers from unfair discrimination with the stroke of a pen. I’m pleased that 36 of my colleagues have joined together to push for more equality in the workplace.”
“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 Human Rights Campaign 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.”
Article continues belowAccording to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, prohibiting anti-LGBT employment discrimination by federal contractors 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.
A majority (57 percent) of Fortune 500 companies have enacted such policies for their employees.