72 Members of Congress Submit Letter Urging President Obama to Support Federal Workplace Equality

72 Members of Congress Submit Letter Urging President Obama to Support Federal Workplace Equality

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On Tuesday, April 3, 2012, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), along with 71 Members of Congress, sent a letter to President Obama calling for an executive order prohibiting contractors from receiving federal funds unless they have sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination policies in place.

The letter was prompted by several examples of LGBT workplace discrimination, including one where a former employee at DynCorp, a military contractor profiting from billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, reported that he was a victim of continual anti-gay discrimination and harassment while working at the corporation.  In 1965, President Johnson established an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

 “I am pleased to join so many colleagues and reputable organizations to call for an executive order that ensures all Americans are afforded the same protections in the workplace,” said Congressman Frank Pallone. “This action by the President will send a clear sign that we will not tolerate such discrimination and serve as a step forward in our efforts to ensure LGBT equality.”

“Americans recognize that discrimination is bad for business and they want our government to take action,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “An executive order is the best step we can take right now to ensure that what matters is how you do your job, not who you are. We thank Representative Pallone and all of the cosigners of this letter for their leadership and their continued commitment to LGBT workplace equality.” 

“Extending the current executive order to cover the LGBT population is good and fair policy. Good because it would require federal contractors to follow a common and efficient best HR practice, and fair because it helps put LGBT workers on equal footing with all other employees at these businesses,” said Jeff Krehely, Vice President for LGBT Progress at Center for American Progress. “Thank you to Congressman Pallone for his leadership on this letter and all cosigners for their commitment to LGBT equality.”

“Having worked with Rep. Frank Pallone and his staff on persuading nearly half of the Democratic Caucus to sign this congressional letter to President Obama, I know firsthand that our LGBT community owes Mr. Pallone a debt of gratitude for his strong leadership promoting workplace fairness,” said Tico Almeida, the founder and President of the national LGBT organization Freedom to Work.  “More than 110,000 people have signed the Freedom to Work online petition proclaiming that ‘We Can’t Wait’ any longer for President Obama to sign this executive order. The right time is now.”

The ACLU views this executive order as the single most important step that President Obama could take this year to eradicate anti-LGBT discrimination from American workplaces,” said Ian Thompson, ACLU Legislative Representative. “With the impressive number of signers on this letter, it is clear that this view is widely shared on Capitol Hill. We thank Representatives Pallone, Frank, and Capps for their outstanding leadership on this letter and on issues of workplace fairness generally.”

The letter is below in its entirety.

April 3, 2012

President Barack Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your leadership advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Your administration will be long-remembered for its efforts to build an America that is fully inclusive of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But, as you know, more work needs to be done.

To that end, we are writing to ask that you sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating in the workplace based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This order would extend important workplace protections to millions of Americans, while at the same time laying the groundwork for Congressional passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a goal that we share with you.

In 1965, President Johnson established Executive Order 11246 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. President Johnson’s executive order continues to stand as an important protection for many Americans, and is currently enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor. The opportunity to expand protections against workplace discrimination to members of the LGBT community is a critical step that you can take today, especially when data and research tell us that 43 percent of LGB people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity would protect more than 16 million additional workers.

Beyond this executive order helping to address the widespread problem of discrimination against LGBT people, it would also help advance what is viewed to be a best practice in corporate America: creating a level playing field for LGBT workers. The majority of the 50 largest corporations in America, for example, say that adopting inclusive workplace practices – such as adding sexual orientation and gender identity to corporate non-discrimination statements – helps attract the best talent, reduce employee turnover, and overall is a plus to their bottom lines.

Given these experiences, it is not surprising that the five largest federal contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics – have already adopted the policy this order would require. In fact, the majority of the 25 largest federal contractors have also adopted these policies. The Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 Corporate Equality Index report further shows that 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies have added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination statements, and 50 percent have added gender identity (this represents a growth rate of 1,567 percent for gender identity inclusion over the past decade).  A recent survey of small business owners by the Center for American Progress (CAP) shows that these practices are not limited to large corporations – clear majorities of small business owners report that they also have added sexual orientation and gender identity to their non-discrimination policies.

Unfortunately, there are current examples of why this executive order is so critically needed. DynCorp, a military contractor that profits from billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, was recently found to have been permitting a hostile work environment in which one employee was bullied at work and called hateful and derogatory anti-gay slurs on a daily basis. After more than 50,000 citizens signed a petition started by Freedom to Work (a new LGBT organization), DynCorp agreed to add LGBT protections to its non-discrimination policies. However, many more companies will take this positive step if you approve the executive order.  

Finally, recent polling shows that the American public would support this executive order. A second poll from CAP, for example, found that approximately three out of four likely 2012 voters support protecting LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination. Further, this poll showed that the support for such protections transcends partisan, age and religious lines.

We thank you for considering our request. We also reaffirm our commitment to working with you to ensure that members of the LGBT community receive the same protections and opportunities as all other Americans. Thank you again for your leadership on advancing LGBT equality – it has improved the lives of many, and has helped our nation live up to its great ideals.

Sincerely,

See the 72 signatories here.

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2 Comments

  1. Mary G. Manley

    I’ve been with my partner for 6 and half years, and it would be nice to finally be able to marry her. As well as in the workplace, there should not be any discrimination of any kind. It shouldn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi, transgendered, fat, thin, tall, short. If you’re going to a job that you want, and you’re able to do just fine and succeed at it, it shouldn’t matter. Please help, make the workplace have equality.

  2. Discrimination is discrimination. Unfortunately it has to be pointed out specificaly who you can’t harrass or bully. It has to be a top down business ethic, and legislation is an effective way to remind those at the top to get their people in line.
    I run a small construction company that has a high percentage of LGBT folks in my workforce. My workforce will double or triple as the summer building season kicks into high gear… all new hires will have to pass my version of an anti-descrimination program, “Do you mind gay people? Do you have any problem working under the authority of a gay person? Do you understand that hasseling my second man (a lesbian, by the way)will result in your emediate termination and a serious beat down? Thanks for your interest, I’ll let you know my decision in the next day or two.”
    My kudos to the 72 signatories. We need this.

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