Obama Advisers: LGBT Executive Order Important to Country

Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 01:49 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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President Barack Obama's executive order giving employment protection to gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies adds an important level of protection to American workers, according to two of the president's advisers

"At present, there are no federal laws that sufficiently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers from being fired simply because of who they are or who they love," Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, and Jason Furman, chairman of  the Council of Economic Advisers. wrote in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal.

"American workers should be judged by one thing only: their ability to get the job done. American workers should be able to walk into work every day with full confidence that their identity won't cost them their jobs," they wrote.

LGBT workers face constant discrimination, Furman and Jarrett said, citing a study by the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank that focuses on gay and transgender legal issues.

According to Williams, 42 percent of LGBT have experienced workplace discrimination at one point, including 16 percent who have lost jobs over their sexual orientation.

In addition, gay and bisexual men earn 10 percent to 32 percent less than straight men who share the same education and experience, the study said.

Jarrett and Furman also said that nine out of every 10 transgender worker are harassed or mistreated on the job or have to hide who they are, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

But there is no federal legislation that prohibits employers from such discrimination, the advisers wrote.

"For almost 40 years, Congress has considered various pieces of legislation meant to address LGBT workplace equality, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed last fall by the Senate with strong bipartisan support," they said. "However, such legislation has yet to become law, and LGBT workers continue to go to work every day knowing that they do not have equal protection under the law."

But since there is no such legislation, the advisers wrote, Obama is committed to giving LGBT workers the same protections other Americans enjoy.

"Opponents of these employment protections often hide behind the argument that it will increase compliance costs for businesses or hurt growth," said Jarrett and Furman. "This is simply untrue—if anything, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers will make our economy stronger."

In addition to the moral issues, overt discrimination hurts the economy by hurting productivity and keeping workers from being matched to jobs, they said, again quoting the Williams Institute.

Obama believes, they wrote, that "bold, lasting, comprehensive change makes us stronger and better as a nation" and his latest executive action "is yet another important step in our march toward a more perfect and prosperous union."

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