WASHINGTON – Thirty-seven U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley, today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Because of a lack of federal protections, it remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in more than half the country – 29 states – and to base those same employment decisions on someone’s gender identity in 34 states.
“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 Chad Griffin, HRC president.
“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.”
Federal contractors employ more than 20% of the American workforce and earn around $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, prohibiting anti-LGBT employment discrimination by federal contractors 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.
“It’s outrageous that in the year 2013, it is still legal to fire someone based on who they love,” Sen. Merkley wrote. “The President can protect millions of workers from unfair discrimination with the stroke of a pen. I’m pleased that 36 of my colleagues have joined together to push for more equality in the workplace.”
According to a recent poll commissioned by HRC, 73% of Americans support an executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors. Furthermore, a strong majority (57%) of Fortune 500 companies have enacted such policies for their employees.
Click here to view the letter and a full list of senators who signed it.