June 8, 2015 at 6:24 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
61 lawmakers call on Obama to expand LGBT executive order

Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Sen. Ed Markey led 61 lawmakers in calling on President Obama to take action on LGBT issues.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Sen. Ed Markey led 61 lawmakers in calling on President Obama to take action on LGBT issues.

Nearly one year after President Obama announced he sign an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination, a group of 61 Democrats in Congress are calling him to take additional action for grants, doing business abroad and marketplace discrimination.

In an open letter dated June 8, the lawmakers — led by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — call for executive action to ensure federal funds aren’t used to subsidize LGBT discrimination in the United States and overseas.

“To promote our fundamental values of equality, equity, and diversity, we cannot go half way at home and we certainly cannot halt the extension of these values at our border,” Lowenthal said in a statement. “Our nation has what I see as a major role in defending the innate rights of all human beings across the globe—including the LGBT community—to live, love, and prosper.”

Although Obama signed an executive order against LGBT discrimination last year, that directive was limited to workplace discrimination among federal contractors. As the letter points out, the order doesn’t apply to federal grantees or federal contractors hiring and doing business abroad. Further, the order doesn’t prohibit federal contractors from denying goods and services to LGBT customers or suppliers.

According to the letter, several individual agencies are working to address these gaps by developing policies to prohibit discrimination in service delivery by contractors and grantees receiving U.S. aid dollars, but there’s no administrative-wide rule.

“We encourage you to make this an urgent, Administration-wide priority and coordinate across agencies to ensure a broad non-discrimination policy is implemented before the end of your Administration’s tenure,” the letter says. “In doing so, this would ensure LGBT people have access to the full range of services offered by U.S.-funded programs and would guarantee our foreign aid dollars are aligned with the values of promoting the human rights of marginalized people globally.”

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration has received the letter and will reply as appropriate.

Among the signers of the letter are Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only out lesbian in the Senate, and openly gay U.S. House members Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). But Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who’s bisexual, didn’t sign the letter. No Republican penned their names to the missive.

Alex Miller, a Maloney spokesperson, said his boss supports the missive and plans to make that clear in an upcoming separate letter to the White House.

“Rep. Maloney fully supports the provisions addressed in this letter, and will send a personal letter to President Obama urging immediate action this week,” Miller said.

Miller didn’t respond to a follow-up email on why Maloney’s name was absent from the group letter in the first place.

Notably, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who’s chair of the Democratic National Committee, signed the letter, even though she generally has a rule about not adding her name to missives calling on President Obama to take action because she leads his political arm.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • All sounds good but what we really need is permanent legislation that becomes law doing all these things not just an Executive Order. Executive Orders can be rescinded after a new administration takes office.
    It’s naïve to assume every subsequent administration after Obama will be as supportive of GLBT rights! Only laws will provide lasting protections!

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