Yesterday, President Obama pledged that he would sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Because federal contractors employ 22% of the American workforce, the impending executive order will serve as an important step in eliminating discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. While the executive order will not protect all LGBT workers in the private labor market, it is a step in the right direction.
Employment opportunities should be afforded based on ability, merit, and performance and never on the immutable characteristics that make up an individual.
It is a thoroughly American value to tear down barriers to freedom and opportunity for everyone. Work is an integral part of our lives and the opportunity to work is incredibly important to an individual’s well-being and to our state and national economy.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other later-enacted statutes have helped to eradicate discrimination against persons based upon characteristics that have no bearing on an individual’s ability to perform the essential functions of a job, such as race, gender, age, national origin, and religion. Congress expanded protections for disabled persons in employment through the Americans with Disabilities Act by mandating that employers make reasonable accommodations to help disabled persons perform the essential functions of a job. Protecting LGBT employees is not the extension a special right — it’s safeguarding the opportunity to earn a living.