Washington, DC - On Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and 36 other senators signed a letter organized by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the lead sponsor of legislation outlawing employment discrimination against gay and transgender Americans, calling on President Obama to issue an Executive Order to prohibit such discrimination by federal contractors. Executive orders have banned other forms of employment discrimination by contractors for decades.
“Issuing an Executive Order that includes sexual orientation and gender identity is a critical step that you can take today toward ending discrimination in the workplace,” wrote the senators. “By expanding protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors, you would be helping to ensure that all Americans get an equal opportunity to succeed and that federal taxpayer dollars are used to support companies with the best employment practices.”
Defense contractors have been prohibited from discriminating on race or national origin since World War II, and broader anti-discrimination bans have been in place on all contractors for almost 50 years. The letter to President Obama today asks him to issue a new Executive Order that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to these long-standing bans.
“An executive order from President Obama would ensure that hundreds of thousands of LGBT federal contract employees could go to work every day without fear of being fired for who they are or who they love,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “I am grateful to these leaders in the Senate for speaking out on behalf of LGBT Americans who want nothing more than a fair shot at a job.”
Modifying non-discrimination policies for federal contractors would simply speed up a process of modernizing anti-discrimination policies that has been underway in the private sector for decades. The five largest federal contractors already have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies, as do the majority of the 25 largest federal contractors. However, despite advances in many American workplaces, rates of discrimination against LGBT people remain high. Research shows that up to 43 percent of LGB people and 90 percent of transgender people report having experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
Senator Merkley was joined by the following senators in sending this letter to President Obama:
Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Al Franken (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), William Cowan (D-MA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).