Securing LGBT employment rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama took a strong step today to end discrimination against the nation’s LGBTQ workforce – and PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau was among those in the room at the White House to witness it.

“This is an incredibly exciting moment, an inspiring moment for equality for all,” Landau said. “This sets an important standard, because too often, people can still lose their jobs simply because of whom they love or how they identify themselves. By affirming these as fundamental human expressions, the president has helped to define what ‘equality for all’ truly means.”

President Obama signs executive orders to protect federal LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination.

President Obama signs executive orders to protect federal LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination.

President Obama issued an update to both Executive Order 11246 and Executive Order 11478, bolstering the rights of federal LGBTQ employees.

The first order originally was issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and now, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Religiously-affiliated contractors are allowed certain exemptions.

The update covers federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors doing more than $10,000 in government business annually. The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will oversee and enforce the law.

The second order, initially issued by President Nixon, bans discrimination against federal employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age. President Clinton updated the order to include sexual orientation, and now President Obama has added gender identity.

The executive orders fill a legislative gap. There are no current federal laws that clearly protect LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination.

While Philadelphia has some of the best LGBTQ protection laws in the nation, Pennsylvania does not.

Just 18 states and the District of Columbia explicit have laws that protect LGBTQ workers from losing their jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is in spite of the fact that some 9 in 10 Forbes 500 companies ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and 6 in 10 prohibit gender identity discrimination.

A simple photograph on a desk can be enough to cost someone a job in some cases.

“Our economy grows best not from the top-down, but from the middle-out.  We do better when the middle class does better,” President Obama said during his most recent weekly address to the nation. “We have to make sure our economy works for every working American. Across lots of areas – energy, manufacturing, technology – our businesses and workers are leading again.”

With his actions on Monday, he intends for those ranks to include LGBTQ workers as well.

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