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Ten events in 2014 that had the greatest impact on the lives of LGBT people

President Barack Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House Monday, July 21, 2014, in Washington. Obama’s executive orders signed Monday prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations.
President Barack Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House Monday, July 21, 2014, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin, AP

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2. President Obama signed an executive order in July prohibiting businesses that hold contracts with the federal government from discriminating against employees or potential employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almost as important as the executive order itself, the new executive order neither expanded nor removed a relatively narrow exemption put in place by President George W. Bush –an exemption that allowed “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” to discriminate. A small group of religious leaders has urged the president to include a “robust religious exemption.”

On December 3, the Department of Labor issued is final rule for implementing the new executive order, Executive Order 13672, and the Federal Register published that rule on December 9. It will take effect in April 8, 2015, and is expected to help as many as 14 million workers.

3. The U.S. Department of Education released guidelines in April to clarify for schools receiving federal aid that Title IX of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination “extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” The DOE’s guidance made clear that its Office of Civil Rights “accepts such complaints for investigation.”

4. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed a closely held family company, Hobby Lobby, to deny certain health coverage for employees under the company’s health plan by saying the owners have religious objections to providing the coverage.

LGBT legal activists called the decision a “dangerous and radical departure from existing law,” saying it could provide a means for employers to discriminate against LGBT people by denying coverage for such things as reproductive insemination, gender reassignment treatments, or HIV prevention efforts.

5. Several state legislatures attempted to adopt new bills to allow people to claim that discriminatory treatment of others is an exercise of their religious beliefs. The bills in those states were clearly aimed at allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation, but most fizzled out under pressure from major corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot.

Only a bill in Mississippi made it to the governors desk and was signed into law, just months after Arizona’s governor vetoed a similar measure that gained national attention.

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