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Lawmakers call on Obama to sign executive order protecting LGBT workers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
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WASHINGTON — Nearly 200 Congressional lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to President Obama Tuesday calling for an Executive Order banning contractors from receiving federal government contracts unless they have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

capitol-flag“As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protection millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love,” said the lawmakers, in the letter signed by 148 House members 47 Senators.

“We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get ENDA to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step. This executive order would provide LGBT people with another avenue in the federal government they could turn to if they were the victim of employment discrimination by a federal contractor,” the letter states.

“Issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers in federal contracts would build on the significant progress for LGBT rights made during your time as President and would further your legacy as a champion for LGBT equality,” the letter concludes.

Included among the signatories, for the first time, are senior Democratic House leaders, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). Last year, lawmakers sent a similar letter to Obama, signed by 110 House members and 37 senators.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has publicly supported an executive order, did not sign the letter, but her spokesperson, Drew Hammill, told LGBTQ Nation she would send a private communique to the White House urging Obama to consider the Executive Order.

“All Americans deserve fairness in the workplace,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), in a statement Tuesday. “There is no reason to wait any longer to extend non-discrimination policies to federal contractors and protect millions of Americans from being fired for who they are or who they love.”

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Although the current Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), sponsored by Merkley, passed the Senate last year, it has stalled in the House as Speaker John Boehner has steadfastly refused to bring the ENDA measure forward, citing the possibility that it would put a financial burden on businesses.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says “the Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

Executive orders banning various types of discrimination by federal contractors have been on the books since 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first such order.

An Executive Order signed by Obama would prohibit LGBT discrimination among government contractors only, whereas legislation (ENDA) passed by Congress would apply to all employers.

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