Obama signs historic LGBT rights bill

The president has passed an executive order that protects federal employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity

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The new order protects LGBT federal employees via Wikimedia

Suffering from homophobic or transphobic discrimination at work? Obama's got your back. This morning in Washington, Barack Obama signed an executive bill that prevents workplace discrimination against LGBT employees of the federal government. Just to put that into context, federal employees and contractors make up 20 per cent of America's workforce.

"America's federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people," Obama said during a ceremony at the White House. "I'm going to do what I can with the authority I have to act."

The equality bill marks Obama's biggest accomplishment on LGBT rights since signing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Unlike Britain, the US has no state-wide legislation outlawing discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace; only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws that prevent LGBT employees from being fired. So signing a bill that stops one-fifths of American employees from being discriminated against is kind of a massive deal. 

"This is one of the most important actions ever taken by a president to eradicate LGBT discrimination from America's workplaces," Anthony D. Romero, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union, emphasised. "By signing this order, President Obama is building on a bipartisan tradition, dating back over 70 years, of barring discrimination without exception when taxpayer dollars are involved. While there remains much work still to do to achieve the goal of full civil rights protections for LGBT people, we must take time to celebrate the landmarks along the way, and this is a huge win."

According to surveys and studies, more than four in ten American lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have experienced some form of employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation at some point in their lives, and 90% of transgender employees have experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.

Deep-seated prejudice against LGBT employees won't be eradicated overnight just because of this bill – but it's a good start. 

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