Advocates for gay rights are renewing their efforts to seek protection from discrimination in light of the president’s recent support for the cause during his second inaugural address. President Obama’s statements about gay rights represented a major turning point in the eyes of advocates who are excited about the possibilities for change.
Current federal employment law bans discrimination based on the categories of race, gender, national origin, age, ethnicity, disability status, or religion. No protection is offered for employees who experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Advocates for expanding protections to LGBT workers have been pushing for an executive order that would ban this type of discrimination by federal contractors.
President Obama declined to sign that order previously. Since the federal government employs so many contractors, the order would affect about 20 percent of the workforce in the United States. Most Fortune 500 companies already voluntarily include language in their hiring policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is already banned in 21 states, including Minnesota. Minnesota’s law is recognized as one of the broadest, but it still has some exemptions for religious groups and other organizations. The advantage to a federal order for Minnesota employees would be that protections would be more uniform even if they leave the state or are transferred to another location by their employer.
The issue is not without controversy, however, since some in the business sector worry about how an executive order would be enforced and what the specifics of the law might be.
Source: Associated Press, “LGBT advocates seek ban on employment discrimination” Jan. 24, 2013.