The White House announced on Monday that President Barack Obama will issue an executive order requiring all companies with federal government contracts to refrain from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
It is currently legal to fire people because of their sexual orientation in 29 states, and in 33 states it is legal to fire people for their gender identity.
Anywhere from 15 to 43 percent of gay people have experienced discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and over 90 percent of transgender workers report that they have been discriminated against or harassed. This executive order would protect over 1 million LGBT workers, the largest expansion of workplace protection for gay and transgender workers in the country's history.
Obama pledged to sign an order like this during his 2008 campaign, but once elected said he preferred to create LGBT protections via legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA passed the Senate last fall, but House Speaker John Boehner told the LGBT Equality Caucus that there was "no way" it was going to pass during this year's legislative session.
The LGBT community was torn as to whether ENDA, in its current form, would even work as a solution, since it allows for religious organizations to be exempt from the anti-discrimination protections. The executive order will require all contractors and subcontractors who do more than $10,000 in business during a calendar year to enact these protections irrespective of religious affiliation.