U.S. President Barack Obama signed an order on Monday (July 21) protecting federally contracted worked from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. President Barack Obama signed an order on Monday (July 21) protecting federally contracted worked from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. "It doesn't make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. And that's wrong," Obama said. The Executive Order Obama signed will allow some exemptions for religious groups that are federal contractors but not as much flexibility as the groups had wanted. A religious organization would be barred from making hiring decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Exceptions would be allowed for ministers, and groups would be allowed to favor individuals of a particular religion when hiring. Obama's order updates a previous order by President Lyndon Johnson by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected categories for federal contractors. It also updates an order by President Richard Nixon, adding gender identity to a list of groups that are protected from being discriminated against as federal employees. The order already banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age. It was updated in 1998 by President Bill Clinton to include sexual orientation. A senior administration official said the order would affect 24,000 companies that employ some 28 million workers, roughly a fifth of the nation's work force. Obama has pressed Congress to pass legislation that would ban such discrimination for all companies, but it has failed to gain traction with Republican lawmakers. The White House believes the order will help improve productivity by reducing fears among employees that they could be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. "We've got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years. In the last two years. In the last one year. We're on the right side of history."