US: Obama to sign Executive Order banning anti-gay workplace discrimination

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Barack Obama has confirmed plans to sign an Executive Order banning homophobic workplace discrimination among federal contractors.

A White House official confirmed that Obama has asked his staff to prepare the measure for his signature, though a time-frame was not mentioned.

Obama has been under pressure to sign an Executive Order due to the stalling of the broader Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The Order will protect federal contractors in all 50 states, which is vital as 29 states have no workplace discrimination protection for LGBT people.

Rea Carey – the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – said: “This is a major step forward in the struggle for freedom and justice for LGBTQ workers and their families.

“Now millions of people will have the economic security they need to provide for their families. Through his actions, the President has demonstrated again his commitment to ending discrimination. We thank all the organizations who have worked so hard to make this piece of history.

“This decision is good for LGBTQ people, good for our economy and good for America. Unfortunately, many of us who don’t work for federal contractors will still lack workplace protections.

“Now we must redouble our efforts for the urgent passage of state employment protections and strong federal legislation.”

The White House had previously resisted pressure to pass an executive order instead, with Press Officer Jay Carney – who resigned this month – describing it as ‘redundant’ in April.

He said: “I think if the law passed — and I’m not a lawyer — and I haven’t read every sentence of the law, but I think if a law passed that broadly banned this kind of employment discrimination, it would make redundant an executive order.”

He added that ENDA is “a broad solution to the problem, and it ought to be passed by Congress.”

However, Vice President Joe Biden later contradicted that statement to suggest there was “no downside” to an executive order.

He had said: “I don’t see any downside.”

Last week, several prominent LGBT groups have dropped their support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act over a ‘religious freedom’ exemption added in the House of Representatives, which they claimed made it a ‘license to discriminate’.

It is not known whether Obama will press ahead with ENDA – which would have delivered broader protections – given the executive order.