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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Obama to Sign Executive Order Ending LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 1:27 PM


President Obama has long tried to ban federal LGBT workplace discrimination, at least since 2008. After years of inaction, the order, frequently known as the executive ENDA, looks as if it might finally bring ENDA to an end-a for some workers.

The White House announced on Monday that President Obama would issue an executive order that forbids job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees by federal contractors and subcontractors.

Once signed, the order could protect up to 16 million workers, and is a considerable victory for LGBT rights. As we've written about before, you can still get fired in 29 states for being lesbian, gay, or bi, and if you're trans that number goes up to 33 states. On top of that, nine out of 10 voters believe that workplace protections are already in place for LGBT workers, even though they often aren't. 

The executive ENDA, once signed, 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," said the White House official.

The Obama administration has urged Congress to act on the legislative ENDA, which would have protected all workers and not just federal workers and contractors. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate, but stalled in the House, leaving Obama to step up his game on this front, which coincides nicely with Pride month and an LGBT gala he's attending on June 17. 

The Republican-controlled House, and particularly Speaker John Boehner, has claimed that there are already protections for LGBT workers in place, so ENDA is superfluous. As Slate points out, he might have a small point. The Civil Rights Act does prohibit sex discrimination, which many legal analysts say applies to protecting gay and trans workers, should said discrimination make it to court, which is where every gay wants to end up, of course. We do love Judge Judy.

If, like us, you don't find the words of Boehner to be at all comforting, you should know that there are also some LGBT supporters who think ENDA might not be all it's cracked up to be the way it's written now. As ThinkProgress notes, some claim the bill has been weakened by "an exemption that would grant religious organizations unprecedented privilege to continue discriminating against LGBT people."

Still, Obama's executive ENDA could potentially reach millions of LGBT workers across the U.S., which is a pretty "big fucking deal," to channel Vice President Joe Biden. And in this climate of political gridlock, having SOME federal protections in place for LGBT folks is better than nothing. If nothing else, it paves the way for extending protections to all employees, and proves that civil rights for workers are a priority. Here's hoping for a pot o' gold at the enda this rainbow.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley

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