"Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming."
Those were President Obama's words to the audience in the East Room of the White House this morning, before he signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
At the signing, the President explained how, because of their "passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of cause, our government -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- will become just a little bit fairer."
Today's Executive Order amends Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories in the existing Executive Order covering federal contractors.
"It doesn't make much sense," President Obama said, "but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. And that’s wrong." The President also pointed out that workplace equality is simply good business. Noting that most of the Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies on their books, he explained that these policies help companies attract and retain the best talent.
"Despite all that," he said, "in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can still be a fireable offense. There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason."
I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American.
— President Obama, July 21, 2014
"I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act," the President said. "The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all."