Obama to sign order protecting LGBT rights for federal contractors

A demonstrator waves a rainbow flag in front of the US Capitol in Washington on October 11, 2009 as tens of thousands of gay activists marched to demand civil rights, a day after President Barack Obama vowed to repeal a ban on gays serving openly in the US military.
Maria Belen Perez Gabilondo/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama plans to sign an executive order that would protect federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the White House said Monday.

The move is part of Mr. Obama's decision to rely on executive authority this year -- his "pen and phone" powers -- to act where Congress has stalled.

Last year, with solid bipartisan support, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect LGBT workers. The legislation, however, has gone nowhere in the Republican-led House. Consequently, there is no federal protection for workers from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. Just 18 states and the District of Columbia have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while three more have banned discrimination just on sexual orientation.

Gay rights advocates have for years pressed for Mr. Obama to use his executive authority to protect federal LGBT workers. The White House has said it prefers the matter to be handled legislatively, even though Mr. Obama promised in 2008 that he would sign such an executive order.

This year, Mr. Obama has advanced several agenda items through executive orders, such as raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and setting new automotive fuel standards.

Tuesday, Mr. Obama will be in New York for the Democratic National Committee's annual gay and lesbian fundraiser.