Obama Signs Executive Order to Protect LGBT Workers

President Obama today signed an executive order barring discrimination against transgender federal employees and LGBT employees of federal contractors, a move signaled by the White House more than one month ago.

Since then, nearly 70 groups – including The Leadership Conference – sent a letter to Obama asking that he not include a broad religious exemption in the executive order, while more than 100 religious leaders sent a letter requesting that he include the same religious exemption that the Senate passed in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last November.

On Friday, the White House confirmed the exemption would not be included.

Obama’s executive action comes in the absence of federal legislation barring LGBT workplace discrimination. The Senate passed ENDA last year, but House leadership has failed to move the bill since its introduction in April 2013. There are currently 29 states without workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 32 states lack protections for trans workers.

The order is also part of Obama’s promise to make 2014 a year of action to ensure more opportunity for all Americans, a promise he made during his State of the Union address in January. Earlier this year, he took action on issues like minimum wage and equal pay – issues that, like workplace discrimination, also have companion federal legislation not moving in Congress.