President Barack Obama said Monday that the White House is preparing an executive order banning job discrimination among federal employees on the basis of gender identity. Obama mentioned the planned measure while addressing a White House reception marking LGBT Pride Month. The White House announced earlier this month that the president also intends to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity — a measure for which LGBT rights groups have long clamored.
More from the Associated Press:
At least two other measures already prevent the federal government from firing people for being transgender, so Obama’s announcement is largely symbolic. Still, advocates hailed the move as a powerful act of recognition for transgender Americans by the first American president to even utter the word “transgender” in a speech. “The majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies to protect their employees because it’s the right thing to do and because many say it helps to retain and attract the best talent. And I agree. So if Congress won’t act, I will,” Obama told a supportive crowd in the East Room of the White House during a reception marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
And in one of the event’s lighter moments:
President Obama has a sweet tooth and a weakness for pies made by White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. The pies are so good, in fact, the president admitted to wondering “whether he puts crack in them” on live camera. During a LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House Monday, the president took some time to acknowledge members of the administration and his staff who were present with their partners, including “a man who’s made life at the White House very sweet, our executive pastry chef.” “We call Bill the crustmaster, because his pies, I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them…but…” the president paused, perhaps realizing what he just said in front of a live camera. The first lady quickly mumbled, “No he doesn’t. There is NO crack in our pies.”
UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign reacts:
“Today President Obama proved yet again why he will be remembered as the most pro-LGBT president in history. Each and every American worker should be judged based on the work they do, and never because of a fundamental aspect of who they are – like their gender identity. And the federal government, like employers across America, is best served by ensuring every qualified individual are able to serve without fear of discrimination. We thank President Obama for announcing this crucial and historic measure, and we look forward to seeing it signed soon.” Currently, there’s no federal law that explicitly bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. And 32 states lack explicit laws banning discrimination based on gender identity, while it’s legal under state law to fire or refuse employment to a person based on sexual orientation in 29 states.
UPDATE II: From Labor Secretary Tom Perez:
As we celebrate Pride Month and approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the Labor Department is reaffirming its commitment to equal opportunity for all. That’s why we are updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals. These changes reflect current law. In Macy v. Holder, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that discrimination because a person is transgender is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex. While the department has long protected employees from sex-based discrimination, its guidance to workers and employers will explicitly clarify that this includes workers who identify as transgender. The department will continue to examine its programs to identify additional pportunities to extend the law’s full protection against discrimination to transgender workers. Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.