President Obama Uses Executive Order to Protect LGBT Workers, But the Fight Is Far From Over
Washington, DC—July 21, 2014 – Today, President Obama signed an Executive Order to ban federal contractors from discriminating in the workplace based on their employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This Executive Order is the single largest expansion of LGBT workplace protections in the nation’s history, protecting one-fifth of the entire U.S. labor force. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, President Obama’s action is estimated to extend protections to about 14 million workers whose employers or states currently do not have such nondiscrimination policies.
“President Obama’s decision to protect LGBT workers contracting with the federal government is a powerful sign that our nation continues to make progress on expanding equality and opportunity to all. But the fight on this issue is far from over,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, NBJC Executive Director and CEO. “It’s beyond troubling that more states permit marriage equality than prohibit LGBT discrimination in the workplace. What sense does it make to be able to marry, but have to live in fear of losing your job simply because of who you are or who you love? This injustice must be made right by Congress passing nondiscrimination protections for all of our nation’s workers, no matter their backgrounds."
For forty years, Congress has debated several pieces of legislation meant to address LGBT workplace equality with no success achieved. This lack of advancement has had a devastating impact on LGBT workers of color. NBJC’s co-authored report, A Broken Bargain For LGBT Workers of Color, illustrates how LGBT workers who live at the intersections of race and both gender identity and sexual orientation face tremendous odds when trying to secure and maintain employment. For example, national surveys of Black LGBT people put rates of employment discrimination near 50 percent.
“Black LGBT people are significantly disadvantaged when they lack nondiscrimination protections in the workplace. NBJC will not rest until all qualified American workers, including our Black LGBT brothers and sisters, have the ability to secure a good, quality job to take care of themselves and their families,” added Lettman-Hicks.
With the signing of today’s Executive Order, President Obama builds upon his Administration’s stellar record of improving the lives of LGBT people. The Obama Administration’s LGBT victories include: signing a federal hate crimes law; repealing the military’s discriminatory policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” the Department of Justice’s move to stop defending the “Defense of Marriage Act;” and the expansion of health care coverage to the LGBT community, with an emphasis on addressing LGBT health care disparities.