Over a third of the Senate has endorsed a letter urging President Obama to issue an executive order on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect LGBT Americans from being discriminated against by federal contractors.
The Washington Post attained the letter, spearheaded by Sen. Jeff Merkley and signed by 37 Senators including freshmen Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the majority of the Democratic leadership — Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin and Patty Murray:
Currently, an Executive Order prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Signed by President Johnson in 1965, the Executive Order continues to offer important employment protections for many Americans, and is currently enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor.
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. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity would extend equal workplace rights to more than 16 million workers, and would help ensure that they are not forced into the ranks of the unemployed based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. But doing so would also serve another important purpose, one that is always on our mind as appropriators of American’s taxpayer dollars, namely, making the most efficient use of federal government resources…
Of course, making this important change is also a matter of basic fairness. Unfortunately, there are many examples of why issuing an Executive Order is so critically needed. Despite advances in many American workplaces, rates of discrimination against LGBT people remain high. Research shows that up to 43 percent of LGB and 90 percent of transgender people report having experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
According to the ACLU, the passage of ENDA, in conjunction with existing non-discrimination policies “would likely mean that, for the first time in history, more than half of all American workers would have legally binding workplace rights.”
The President has also come under pressure from LGBT rights groups who, tired of waiting around for Congress to get its act together, argue that an executive order would be the best and easiest way to enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.