US: Campaigners call on President Obama to legally protect LGBT workers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Gay rights advocates are renewing their push for President Barack Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

The drive comes as President Obama included an unexpected declaration of support for gay equality in his inaugural address on Monday.

Current federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin but do not stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire a worker based on sexual orientation.

President Obama frustrated some supporters last year when he declined to issue an executive order that would protect about 16 million workers at companies with government contracts from bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

White House officials said President Obama was waiting for congress to pass broader legislation that would prohibit all employers from discriminating against gay workers.

“Getting past an election always uncomplicates things,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a leading US gay rights group. “We intend to pick up the issue once again and ask the president to do this,” he told the Associated Press.

However, on Thursday, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said the Obama administration “is not ready at this time” to issue such an order.

21 states and the District of Columbia ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.