With the recent historic Supreme Court win, LGBTQ people won the right to marry, but marriage was just the first step to overcoming discrimination in this country. Discrimination is still a threat to LGBTQ workers; LGBTQ renters or prospective homeowners face challenges in housing; and students from elementary to higher education remain vulnerable to discrimination in education settings. It’s clear that there’s plenty more that must be done beyond marriage equality that will ensure that everyone has equal protection under the law.
Seventy-three percent of Americans supported an executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors. In 2014, President Obama showed that he was listening when he signed an executive order banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal government and for federal contractors.
The president must now take executive action again and issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose political spending.
Why is this issue important for LGBTQ supporters? While federal contractors are no longer allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ workers, we don’t know if these businesses are financially supporting candidates that have an anti-LGBTQ platform.
Federal contractors employ more than 20% of the American workforce with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars every year, but they are not required to disclose 100 percent of their political giving. We don’t know if they are tacitly endorsing a pro-discrimination agenda because of current campaign finance loopholes that allow contractors to funnel dollars into “secret money” groups that don’t reveal their donors.
The public has a right to know who is trying to buy government influence. And a business’ workers deserve to know if the company’s election donations threaten their job security elsewhere in the American workplace.
In addition to all federal contractors, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies have workplace non-discrimination policies in place. They see protecting their workers as a good business model. Yet, these same businesses may at the same time be contributing millions of dollars to members of Congress who oppose LGBTQ progress with an anti-LGBTQ voting record. If businesses really do support their own workplace non-discrimination policies, they need to “walk the walk” with greater disclosure of the candidates they financially support for public office. The president must help them get there.
This fight for equality in the federal workplace started when President Johnson required federal contractors with $10,000 or more each year to prohibit discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion or national origin. It’s about time we finish this fight.
Your sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be grounds for dismissal no matter where you work. If we want to encourage more businesses to support workplace equality we need to know where federally contracted businesses are spending money to support a pro-discrimination agenda.
The president can help give discrimination its “two-week notice” by signing an executive order that will make federal contractors more transparent about the way they do business.
Rea Carey is executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.