Obama May Sign Executive Order Protecting Gay People in the Workplace

Currently, there is no federal law protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination. Twenty-one states have enacted such protections, but in the remaining 29 states, employers may, for example, fire an employee for being gay.

(Photo Credit: CarbonNYC/Flickr) 

Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli, reporting for the Los Angeles Times, have good news for the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. President Obama may sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against their employees based upon gender identity or sexual orientation.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is enforced by the EEOC, which is part of the federal government. Hence, this Act applies to all 50 states. This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.

Amendments to Title VII include, but are not limited to, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and limited protections against age discrimination.

Executive Orders

Parsons and Memoli report that President Obama has been trying for the past few years to encourage Congress to pass legislation protecting the civil rights of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. He has been unsuccessful.

An executive order may be passed without the approval of Congress, but there are also limits. The President's executive order will offer protections to employees who work for employers who do business with the federal government. The number of workers affected by this protection is estimated to be about 11 million.

Reactions

The article goes on to discuss reactions across the country from different groups. Gay rights activists have expressed frustration that Obama has taken so long to act, so this is a welcome development.

Some conservative groups are talking about the loss of religious rights suffered by employers. In the land of equal opportunity, many employers may fire skilled workers based upon their sexual orientation.

On the History Learning Site, it says that President Lyndon B. Johnson felt he and Congress owed it to the late President Kennedy to "see his civil rights bill passed. However, Johnson was warned by other Southerners that he was staking his political career on passing this bill into law."

In other words, protections for black people against discrimination was a hot political issue that found much resistance among the majority. Today, protections for gay people against discrimination is a hot political issue that finds much resistance among the majority. It will be interesting to see what history will show in 50 years. 

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