At the White House annual LGBT Pride Month reception Monday night, President Obama reiterated his commitment to sign an executive order protecting transgender federal employees from discrimination.
President Obama told the crowd, “If Congress won’t act, I will.”He pledged that the Executive Order would include employees already protected on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the federal workplace, but it did not limit discrimination against employees on the basis of gender identification.
“Though this administration has previously interpreted existing law to cover transgender federal employees, updating the language of this executive order makes it 100% clear that transgender federal employees must be treated equally at work,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality stated.
Congress has failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) every term since it was first introduced in 1994. ENDA would protect people from discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The Senate passed ENDA in November, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) opposes the bill and has yet to bring it to the floor.
Last week, Boehner announced his intent to file a lawsuit against the Executive Branch, alleging that the President is violating the Constitution by using the power of an Executive Order. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, the President called Boehner’s lawsuit “a stunt.” President Obama also announced his intent to address immigration reform by executive order.
The White House has not set a timetable for the non-discrimination executive order for transgender employees.