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MAJOR UPDATE: On December 4, the US Dept of Labor announced the specific implementation of President Obama’s July executive order adding LGBT protections for federal contractors. All companies with new or modified federal contracts including subcontracts after April 6, 2015 must have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity!
In my last week’s blog “The Great United States / North Carolina Diversity Divide,” (link) I contrasted two recent advances for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) equality and fairness at the US Federal Level with a recent North Carolina Governor’s executive order on equal opportunity that excludes LGBT citizens. One of those Federal advances was President Obama’s promise to soon sign an executive order giving workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity for federal employees and contractors. The big update: the promised executive order was indeed signed by President Obama on Monday, July 21st!
The executive order included two parts. First, it makes it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Second, it explicitly adds discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government (President Clinton had already included sexual orientation protections for federal employees earlier.) And very importantly, the executive order is all-inclusive and does NOT include a bunch of exemptions.
What I find truly amazing is that some press outlets led with the headline, “President Obama’s LGBT Executive Order Endangers Religious Liberties.” For example, check out this Fox News story (link). Huh? How in the world does providing equal treatment for all Americans in the federal workplace endanger religious freedom? I would think that people of all faiths would want to make sure all people in our country were treated equally. In fact, many supportive religious leaders were in the ceremony when President Obama signed the order. (See photo) Also, check out this link to an excellent supportive commentary written by Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches.
I would argue that there is absolutely no threat to religious freedom by this order. If a company felt so strongly that they should remove qualified LGBT Americans from their company or harass them, then they can make the choice to forgo doing business with the Federal Government. In fact, discriminating against LGBT people does a grave disservice to our country. As an American, I would want all subcontractors working for my government to have the very best, most qualified people working on these contracts regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation and gender identity.
Really – fairness, equal treatment, and having the best people empowered to do the best job they can is the true American way!