195 Lawmakers, All Dems, Sign Letter Urging Obama to Protect LGBT Workers in Executive Order

A group of 195 U.S. lawmakers (148 House members and 47 Senators) has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to issue and executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination against LGBT Americans.

HoyerThe letter reads:

We are writing to urge you to fulfill the promise in your State of the Union address to make this a “year of action” and build upon the momentum of 2013 by signing an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. As you have said before, “now is the time to end this kind of discrimination, not enable it.”

As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protect millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get ENDA to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step. This executive order would provide LGBT people with another avenue in the federal government they could turn to if they were the victim of employment discrimination by a federal contractor. When combined with ENDA, these non-discrimination protections would parallel those that have been in place for decades on the basis of race, sex and religion.

An executive order covering LGBT employees would be in line with a bipartisan, decades-long commitment to eradicating taxpayer-funded discrimination in the workplace. In 1941, President Roosevelt prohibited discrimination in defense contracts on the bases of race, creed, color, or national origin. In subsequent executive orders, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson expanded these protections to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to discriminate.

In addition, most of the largest government contractors – companies like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin – have LGBT non-discrimination policies in place. They adopted them because business leaders recognize that discrimination is bad for the bottom line.

Finally, time is of the essence. Even with an executive order in place, full implementation of these protections will require regulations to be developed and finalized, a process that will take many months, if not longer, to fully put in place.

Issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers in federal contracts would build on the significant progress for LGBT rights made during your time as President and would further your legacy as a champion for LGBT equality. We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans.

For House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD, pictured) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC), it's the first time signing such a letter. Pelosi and Reid did not sign, noting they do not sign group letters.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz did not sign the letter. Last week it was reported that she had discouraged House members from signing it, a charge which her spokesperson called a "bald-faced lie."

The Washington Blade adds:

Not a single Republican signed the letter. Not one of the 10 Republicans who voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate late last year any of the six GOP co-sponsors of ENDA in the House penned their name to the missive.

Said Ian Thompson, the ACLU's legislative representative, who helped gather signatures for the letter:

“This letter, and the breadth of support for it, makes clear what we have long argued: we need both ENDA and a non-discrimination executive order for federal contractors. This executive order represents the most important step President Obama can take on his own during the remainder of his term in office to eradicate LGBT discrimination from workplaces in America. There is no reason for further delay.”

Read the letter below:

LGBT Executive Order Letter 3/18/14