Obama Signs Order To Protect Against Anti-LGBT Bias

President Obama has signed an executive order to ban bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees among federal contractors.

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President Obama signed an executive order today giving new employment protections to gay and transgender people. And this is for people who work for the government. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports that the move comes after years of pressure from LGBT activists.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: At the White House today, President Obama signed the order saying we're on the right side of history. He said it was time to address this injustice for every American.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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. We're here to do what we can to make it right, to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

LIASSON: Just a little bit because the president's order only applies to people who work in the government or for federal contractors. But still, the Human Rights Campaign's Fred Sainz said it was a historic step.

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FRED SAINZ: Today's action will no doubt cement his legacy as by far the friendliest president in our history towards LGBT equality.

LIASSON: The next step, the president told his audience of activists, was to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act - or ENDA - and to pass the Senate by a big 64 to 32 majority. But it has not been passed by the House representatives.

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OBAMA: But I'm going to do what I can with the authority I have to act. 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.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Amen.

OBAMA: Amen. Amen.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Got the amen corner here. (Singing) Well...

LIASSON: ENDA would apply to all U.S. workplaces. The order the president signed today applies to 28 million workers. That's a lot, but only one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. It shows that while the president can act on his own, executive orders have limited impact compared to legislation passed by Congress.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House.

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