Even with a terrible Congress, the president gets to do some good stuff.
It now doesn't matter what state you run a business out of, and what its laws say (or don't say) about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity: If you want a contract with the federal government,
you can't discriminate
President Barack Obama signed the order in June 2014 banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government. The administration took the last six months to provide rules to contractors, and to give companies time to put processes in place. The change affects 24,000 companies employing roughly 28 million workers, or about one-fifth of the nation's workforce.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez explains
Each year, federal contractors and subcontractors receive billions of taxpayer dollars to supply goods, provide services and perform construction work for government agencies. In return, they are held to a reasonable standard that they may not discriminate in hiring, firing, pay, promotion and other employment practices. Until today, it was discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability and status as a protected veteran that was prohibited. Now, in the first expansion since 1974, LGBT Americans enjoy these same protections.
The obligation not to discriminate covers every type of new and modified federal contract – from companies that build our highways and manage our IT infrastructure to those that run our cafeterias, produce our military uniforms and stock our supply closets. And it applies to every establishment of those contractors and subcontractors – not just the ones directly involved in performing the contract. While these protections for LGBT workers go into effect today, they do not require employers to undertake new record keeping, data analysis, goal setting or other similar affirmative action. Nor are employees and job applicants required to identify their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is one congressional Republicans can't stand in the way of, as they have done with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But all of America's workers deserve these protections, not just the ones working for federal contractors, and at this point, 29 states allow employers to discriminate over sexual orientation, and 32 states allow discrimination on the basis of gender identity.