Mary Beth Hasty takes part in a protest at a fundraiser for President Obama during his 2012 re-election campaign, urging protection for gay and lesbian contractor employees. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The administration should issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, nearly 200 lawmakers said in a letter submitted to President Obama on March 18.
The letter — signed by 48 Democratic senators and 149 members of the House — said the administration must act to protect contractor employees from discrimination while Congress works on legislation.
While the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate on Nov. 7, it has stalled in the House. The legislation would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“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,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
The lawmakers pointed to previous executive orders banning discrimination in the federal workplace and for recipients of taxpayer dollars. Large government contractors such as Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin already have non-discrimination policies in place because they are good for employees and for business, according to the lawmakers.
Even with an executive order, it would take months to develop and implement regulations for federal contractors. “We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans,” the lawmakers wrote.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a press briefing March 19 that President Obama supports the legislation pending in Congress but would not state whether the administration would issue an executive order.
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., a founding member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, said House Republicans continue to object to passing legislation, so President Obama must act on his own. “President Obama has the authority to step in and correct this discrepancy, and I hope that he will,” Moran said.
More than 190,000 people also signed a petition at administration website Change.org demanding President Obama sign an executive order banning discrimination againstfederal contractor employees.■