An official timeframe has not yet been announced, but the president is expected to sign the order by the end of the month.
The move comes in lieu of the passage of the broader Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in companies nationwide.
The order, instead, would prohibit companies that have federal contracts from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Federal contractors are currently banned from discriminating on the basis of such factors as race, religion and sex.
Federal contractors employ about 28 million workers, or 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. employed by companies with federal contracts who would be affected by the order, and LGBT advocates say up to one in five LGBT people could be impacted.
The administration has in the past voiced its support for the passage of ENDA. The measure was approved by the Senate last fall, but the pending order may suggest that further movement is not expected this year.
The White House was scheduled to host a meeting Thursday afternoon to further outline the executive order, as well as to detail a forthcoming report from the Department of Justice about federal policy changes that have been made in the past year since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor marriage-equality case.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey called the order a “major step forward in the struggle for freedom and justice for LGBTQ workers and their families.”
“This decision is good for LGBTQ people, good for our economy and good for America,” Carey continued. “Unfortunately, many of us who don’t work for federal contractors will still lack workplace protections. Now, we must redouble our efforts for the urgent passage of state employment protections and strong federal legislation.”
Pennsylvania is one of the 32 states in the country that lacks nondiscrimination protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. More than 30 Pennsylvania municipalities have adopted LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, yet about 70 percent of the state’s residents remain unprotected.
National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling noted that LGBT advocates have been pressing for local and state laws, continue to advocate for ENDA and have found recourse through the Title VII sex-discrimination claims, and Obama’s order is a “very important piece of the comprehensive antidiscrimination protections our community has been working for and winning.”
American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony D. Romero praised Obama’s LGBT leadership.
“President Obama’s commitment to LGBT equality will be one of his lasting legacies,” Romero said.