President Obama to sign order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against gays

Adds sexual orientation as a protected class.

Published 16 June 2014  |  
(AP)

In his latest sign of support for same-sex rights advocates, President Obama will sign an order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees.

A White House official reported on Monday that President Obama directed his staff to prepare the order for him to sign, but did not specify when the order would be issued.

The order adds sexual orientation to the list of federally-protected classes on which grounds a contractor cannot discriminate.

"The action 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," the official told NBC News.

Same-sex rights advocates have been trying to secure such legislation for months. An employment discrimination ban passed the largely Democratic Senate in November, but was not brought up for a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It appeared to some that the issue was not on the table.

"Given the stranglehold on passage of LGBT legislation through the House, it seems that at least until the next election, nothing is going to happen," Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization, executive Jon Davidson told the L.A. Times in March.

American Civil Liberties Union legal representative Ian Thompson was one of the advocates who urged the White House to take action.

"This is the single most important thing that President Obama can do on his own in his second term to eradicate discrimination from the workplace," he said, according to the L.A. Times.

The order, when signed, will only apply to federal contractors, and can be reversed in the future. Brookings Institution senior fellow Jonathan Rauch warned against changing policies via executive order instead of through law.

"The more he does with the stroke of a pen, the angrier Congress gets and the harder, potentially, it is to pass legislation," he told the Times.

The White House announcement comes ahead of President Obama's appearance at the Democratic National Committee LGBT Leadership Council's gala fundraiser tomorrow.

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