President Obama is set on Monday to take executive action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees working for federal contractors and the federal government, the Washington Blade has learned.
In a conference call with reporters on Friday, senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama plans to amend existing executive orders barring discrimination against workers to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Obama intends to amend Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, to add the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, Obama plans to amend Executive Order 11478, which prohibits discrimination in the federal civilian workplace — and was already amended by President Clinton to include sexual orientation — to include gender identity.
No further exemption for religious entities will be included in the executive order, but the update also won’t repeal President George W. Bush’s amendment to EO 11246, which allows religious-affiliated federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion, officials said.
“You can use religion to only hire people who share your religion, but you can’t discriminate against somebody who is of your faith who happens to be LGBT, unless they fall within the ministerial exemption,” officials said.
The White House believes the executive action protect LGBT workers and the interests of religious-affiliated employers, officials said.
Officials said they anticipate the executive action barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity will take effect “early next year” after the Department of Labor writes regulations to implement the amendment. The executive action prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the federal workplace will take effect immediately, the officials said.
The executive action related to federal contractors will impact an estimated 24,000 companies who receive federal contractors and employ 28 million people, or about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce, officials said.
Obama felt comfortable moving forward with the executive action following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case because that decision was related to health care coverage and didn’t apply to federal employment non-discrimination policies, officials said.
The White House announced last month that Obama has directed his staff to prepare the executive order for him to sign. Following the announcement, a group of faith leaders, including Catholic Charities USA and Saddleback Church-pastor Rick Warren, pressed Obama to include an exemption in the directive to allow religious organizations to receive federal contracts and be able to discriminate against LGBT workers.
But in a trio of letters this week, more than 70 civil rights organizations, 50 legal scholars, and 34 House Democrats shot back, saying a religious exemption in the planned directive would be unprecedented and would leave certain LGBT workers vulnerable to workplace discrimination.
During the conference call, senior administration officials said they “deeply value the feedback and input” they continue to receive from outside groups on the proposed executive order over the past month.