WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Barack Obama will sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the White House said yesterday, handing another victory to gay rights activists.
Obama has pressed Congress to pass legislation to ban employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and resisted issuing an executive order in favor of pursuing a broader, legislative solution.
But the president has spent the year taking executive action on other domestic priorities where Congress has failed to make legislative headway, and activists have urged him to do the same on gay rights.
The White House said Obama had directed his staff to prepare the executive order but did not lay out a timetable for when he would sign it. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Democrat-controlled US Senate but has languished in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“We’ve been waiting for quite a few months now for the House to take action, and unfortunately … there aren’t particularly strong indications that Congress is prepared to act,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One when asked why Obama was making the move now.
Since coming into office, Obama helped end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibited gays from serving openly in the military. After what he described as an evolution in his thinking, he backed gay marriage during his 2012 re-election campaign.
Activists lauded the latest move.