Obama declines to issue executive order on contractor bias

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., championed the letter. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., championed the letter. Bill Kostroun/AP

The White House has confirmed reports that President Obama does not intend to issue an executive order cracking down on federal contractors that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Some lawmakers and advocates in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have been seeking such an order.

“The president is dedicated to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans and that is why he has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Wednesday. “The president is committed to lasting and comprehensive change, and therefore our goal is passage of ENDA, which is a legislative solution to LGBT employment discrimination -- just as the president pressed for legislative repeal” of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The White House took the unusual step of addressing a hypothetical executive order after it received a letter signed by 72 Democratic Members of Congress requesting it. The lawmakers argued such an order would boost prospects for the long-pending legislation, which would cover a wider variety of private sector employers.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., who championed the letter, said at a March 29 briefing, “it is unconscionable that in 2012 LGBT workers have to worry about facing discrimination in their workplace and have no legal remedies. No one in this country should be subjected to discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and the time for action is long past due.”

The lawmakers noted that the government’s top five contractors -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics -- already have adopted the policy, along with the majority of the top 25 contractors, they said.

The lawmakers said at a worksite of the military contractor DynCorp, “one employee was bullied at work and called hateful and derogatory anti-gay slurs on a daily basis.” After more than 50,000 people signed a petition started by a gay rights group called Freedom to Work, the company “agreed to add LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policies,” the letter said.

Many gay rights groups expressed disappointment with the White House decision not to act now. The Human Rights Campaign, which had called for such an order right after the 2008 election, issued a statement by its president, Joe Solmonese, after he met with Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

“We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president,” Solmonese said. “The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender. Given the number of employees that would be covered by this executive order, it represents a critical step forward.”

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, a contractors group, said in an email to Government Executive, “we support public and private sector employers taking action to ensure that all discrimination in the workplace is eliminated. As the congressional members’ acknowledged, many government contractors are already among the leaders in developing anti-discrimination policies and practices. PSC welcomes a discussion with the Hill and the executive branch in advance of any action being taken so that any unintended consequences can be addressed, but we have not been provided that opportunity yet.”

Stephanie Craig, senior vice president for communications for TechAmerica, said, “our members are equal opportunity employers and do not discriminate in their employment practices whether they are in the government or commercial sectors.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.