Did you need a little good news to get you through the week? Here it is: President Obama signed an executive order on Monday banning workplace discrimination against members of the LGBT community working in the deferral government or for federal contractors.
“America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” Obama said. “I’m going to do what I can with the authority I have to act.”
So what does this all mean? For starters, it’s a significant step towards equal rights in this country. Here’s why:
1. Until today, in many states it was legal for LGBT employees in federal jobs to be fired for their sexual orientation. With this act, Obama adds sexual orientation to the list of things that you can’t be discriminated against for in a federally-funded workplace. That affects about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.
2. Obama’s action is, according to the New York Times, directly related to the recent Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby’s religious exemption from covering birth control on their employee insurance plans. People had been fretting that the decision opened up loopholes that allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT folks under religious protection provisions. Obama just sealed one of those loopholes.
3. It sends a message, loud and clear, that discriminating against LGBT people is something the administration is against. Obama’s stance towards the issue has clearly evolved during his presidency, but this is one of the surest signals that he wants a part of his legacy to be pushing forward equal rights for gay couples.
4. The President is, no surprise, getting pushback about his choice. John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House, is working on a lawsuit to respond to the issue after vigorously protesting the bill.
5. Obama specifically did not include a provision in the bill that would provide a religious exemption. That means that no one, no matter what they believe, can fire LGBT people from a federal job because they are LGBT.
6. After gay marriage, job discrimination against LGBT people is the next frontier of civil rights, as Slate pronounced. Obama’s signature is a victory for the movement. And it’s a step in the right direction for us all.