In a move that could affect up to 16 million workers, President Obama has asked his staff to draft an executive order that would ban employers from discriminating against LGBT employees of federal contractors.
"Today, millions of Americans in most states in the country go to work every day knowing they could lose their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love," a White House official told the Huffington Post. "No current federal law adequately protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers from employment discrimination. That's why the President has long supported federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Yesterday's announcement, which comes in advance of Obama's appearance at a Democratic National Committee LGBT Gala in New York City, sends a clear message of impatience with Congress, which has failed to push forward any LGBT non-discrimination legislation--which Obama first promised to sign during his 2008 campaign.
"Unfortunately Congress has been paralyzed to act in this regard," said Richard Socarides, a Democratic strategist and President Bill Clinton's former advisor on gay rights. "The Senate passed an ENDA bill, it stalled in the House. It looks like at best we will have a divided Congress for two more years at least. So that ENDA bill is going nowhere and I think the president was forced to act and showed a lot of courage in doing so."
Vice President Joe Biden may have hinted at the order last month, when he told the Huffington Post that he couldn't see any negative consequences to taking executive action on the issue. However, the administration didn't make any direct moves until Monday.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who sponsors the Senate's ENDA bill, praised Obama's announcement as a potentially historic moment, adding that most people don't know that it's still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in 32 states.
While there's no timeline yet for signing the order, HuffPost's White House contact said that it would "build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
In the meantime, here are ten states that embrace their LGBT workers.