The White House has just announced that President Obama plans to sign an executive order to protect 16 million Americans against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The mandate affects Federal contractors, which employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce.
This major show of support from the president comes as a bit of a surprise, as just a few months ago the White House cited congress’ stalemated Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) as the reason an executive order to the same effect would be “redundant.”
Perhaps the administration had hopes of congress moving forward with their nondiscrimination legislation, but Republican opposition has slowed progress to a crawl (surprise, surprise).
The Federal government does business with some big fish, and the immediate consequences of Obama’s order are substantial.
For instance, Exxon Mobile shareholders have voted down an anti-discrimination policy for LGBT employees a staggering 17 times, and has held the lowest spot on the HRC’s corporate equality index for years.
Now the oil giant will be forced to offer protections to its LGBT employees and prospective hires.
And all it took was a signature.
This also sends a clear message to companies with hopes of ever doing business with the government: shape up and protect LGBT employees or kiss that contract goodbye.
The president is scheduled to attend a high-profile LGBT fundraising gala for the Democratic National Committee in New York on Tuesday, and you can bet he’ll be talking this one up in hopes of lots of zeroes on those checks.