President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation, a White House official said today. The move follows years of pressure from gay rights groups for Obama to act on his own while a broader employment non-discrimination measure languishes on Capitol Hill. The Senate passed the legislation last year but the bill stalled in the Republican-led House and there is little sign that lawmakers will take it up in an election year.
There is currently no federal law that explicitly bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While Obama does not have the authority to extend that protection to all Americans, he can take unilateral action that impacts federal contractors, which make up nearly one-quarter of the US workforce. The official would not say when Obama planned to sign the order, only that the president had asked his staff to prepare a measure for his signature. The official said the White House wanted to preview the president's upcoming action because of the "intense interest" in the executive order. (Read more President Obama stories.)