President Obama on Monday plans to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, senior administration officials said Friday.
The new order, which Obama said last month he would sign, makes no new exemptions for religiously affiliated contractors. Those employers will continue to be allowed to make hiring decisions based on an employee’s faith, but cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Senior administration officials estimate that the new rules will affect 24,000 companies and 8 million employees.
Although it was long a priority for gay rights groups, Obama had put off the contracting order, saying that he’d rather see Congress pass legislation expanding workforce protections to gays and lesbians.
But there has long been little hope that such legislation would pass through the Republican-led House of Representatives. As he vowed to make 2014 a “year of action” and increasingly touted his executive power, Obama came under intense pressure to sign the order.
Since Obama instructed his staff to draft the order last month, some religious groups lobbied for additional exemptions. In 2002, President George W. Bush carved out an exemption for religious employers that permits them to hire only employees who share the group’s faith. Obama will not change this provision, officials said.
Obama will sign two orders, officials said. One amends an executive order signed by President Johnson in 1965 that prevents federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, religion or national origin.
Obama’s will add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. Obama will also amend an order issued by President Richard Nixon that bars discrimination against federal employees on the basis of sex, race, disability and age. President Clinton included sexual orientation in 1998; Obama will add gender identity to the list of the protected groups.