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Merkley Leads Over 200 Members of Congress in Calling for Executive Order Protecting LGBT Workers from Workplace Discrimination

March 18, 2014

(Updated March 20, 2014)

WASHINGTON, DC — Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today sent a letter signed by more than 200 Senators and Representatives to President Barack Obama calling on him to issue an executive order banning contractors from receiving federal government contracts unless they have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Support for such an action has grown exponentially in Congress, with 51 Senators -- or more than half the Senate -- signing the letter.

“All Americans deserve fairness in the workplace,” said Merkley. “There is no reason to wait any longer to extend non-discrimination policies to federal contractors and protect millions of Americans from being fired for who they are or who they love.”

Senator Merkley has been a long-time advocate of equal rights for all Americans. As Speaker of the Oregon House, he championed the successful passage of a bill that banned anti-LGBT discrimination in employment and public accommodations in Oregon. He is the lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate. ENDA passed the Senate in 2013 by a bipartisan vote of 64-32 and, with more than 200 cosponsors, is awaiting action in the House.

Executive orders banning various types of discrimination by federal contractors have been on the books since 1941, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the first such order. Federal contractors have been banned since 1965 from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories is below.

March 18, 2014

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to urge you to fulfill the promise in your State of the Union address to make this a “year of action” and build upon the momentum of 2013 by signing an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. As you have said before, “now is the time to end this kind of discrimination, not enable it.”

As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protection millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get ENDA to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step.  This executive order would provide LGBT people with another avenue in the federal government they could turn to if they were the victim of employment discrimination by a federal contractor.  When combined with ENDA, these non-discrimination protections would parallel those that have been in place for decades on the basis of race, sex and religion.

An executive order covering LGBT employees would be in line with a bipartisan, decades-long commitment to eradicating taxpayer-funded discrimination in the workplace.  In 1941, President Roosevelt prohibited discrimination in defense contracts on the bases of race, creed, color, or national origin.  In subsequent executive orders, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson expanded these protections to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to discriminate.

In addition, most of the largest government contractors – companies like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin –  have LGBT non-discrimination policies in place.  They adopted them because business leaders recognize that discrimination is bad for the bottom line. 

Finally, time is of the essence.  Even with an executive order in place, full implementation of these protections will require regulations to be developed and finalized, a process that will take many months, if not longer, to fully put in place.

Issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers in federal contracts would build on the significant progress for LGBT rights made during your time as President and would further your legacy as a champion for LGBT equality. We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans.

Sincerely,

Senator Jeffrey A. Merkley

Representative Jared Polis

Senator Tom Harkin                                                       

Senator Tammy Baldwin

Representative Mike Michaud                                  

Representative David N. Cicilline

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney

Representative Mark Pocan

Representative Kyrsten Sinema

Representative Mark Takano

Representative Frank Pallone, Jr.

Representative Lois Capps

Representative Diana DeGette

Representative Joe Garcia

Representative Raúl M. Grijalva

Representative Michael Honda

Representative Barbara Lee

Representative Jerrold Nadler

Representative Adam Schiff                                      

Senator Mazie K. Hirono

Senator Tim Kaine                                                          

Senator Christopher Coons   

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Senator Richard Durbin 

Senator Patrick Leahy                                                   

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse 

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Barbara Boxer                                                 

Senator Carl Levin                                                           

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Senator Bernard Sanders

Senator Al Franken

Senator Martin Heinrich

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Edward J. Markey                                          

Senator Jack Reed                                                          

Senator Thomas R. Carper

Senator Debbie Stabenow

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin                                        

Senator Mark Udall                                                        

Senator Ron Wyden

Senator Christopher Murphy

Senator Barbara Mikulski

Senator Tim Johnson                                                     

Senator Charles Schumer                                            

Senator Bill Nelson                                                         

Senator Jon Tester                                                         

Senator Mark Begich                                                     

Senator Mary L. Landrieu                                            

Senator Robert Menendez

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Cory Booker

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Senator Tom Udall                                                          

Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV

Senator Mark Warner                                                                       

Senator Joe Donnelly                                                    

Senator Kay Hagan

Representative Ron Barber

Representative Karen Bass

Representative Joyce Beatty

Representative Ami Bera

Representative Timothy H. Bishop

Representative Earl Blumenauer

Representative Suzanne Bonamici

Representative Robert A. Brady

Representative Bruce Braley

Representative Julia Brownley

Representative Michael E. Capuano

Representative Tony Cardenas

Representative André Carson

Representative Matthew Cartwright

Representative Kathy Castor

Representative Joaquin Castro

Representative Judy Chu

Representative Katherine Clark

Representative Yvette D. Clarke

Representative James E. Clyburn

Representative Steve Cohen

Representative Gerald E. Connolly

Representative John Conyers, Jr.

Representative Joe Courtney

Representative Joseph Crowley

Representative Susan A. Davis

Representative John Delaney

Representative Rosa L. DeLauro

Representative Suzan K. DelBene

Representative Theodore E. Deutch

Representative Lloyd Doggett

Representative Mike Doyle

Representative Tammy Duckworth

Representative Keith Ellison

Representative Eliot L. Engel

Representative Anna G. Eshoo

Representative Elizabeth Esty

Representative Sam Farr

Representative Bill Foster

Representative Lois Frankel

Representative Alan Grayson

Representative Al Green

Representative Luis V. Guiterrez

Representative Janice Hahn

Representative Colleen W. Hanabusa

Representative Alcee Hastings

Representative Denny Heck

Representative Brian Higgins

Representative Jim Himes

Representative Rubén Hinojosa

Representative Rush Holt

Representative Steven A. Horsford

Representative Steny Hoyer

Representative Jared Huffman

Representative Steve Israel

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson

Representative Hank Johnson

Representative William R. Keating

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III

Representative Dan Kildee

Representative Derek Kilmer

Representative Ron Kind

Representative Ann McLane Kuster

Representative James R. Langevin

Representative Rick Larsen

Representative Sander M. Levin

Representative John Lewis

Representative Dave Loebsack

Representative Zoe Lofgren

Representative Alan Lowenthal

Representative Nita Lowey

Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham

Representative Stephen F. Lynch

Representative Dan Maffei

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney

Representative Jim Matheson

Representative Betty McCollum

Representative Jim McDermott

Representative James P. McGovern

Representative Jerry McNerney

Representative Gregory W. Meeks

Representative Grace Meng

Representative George Miller

Representative Gwen Moore

Representative Jim Moran

Representative Patrick E. Murphy

Representative Richard M. Nolan

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representative Beto O'Rourke

Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr.

Representative Ed Perlmutter

Representative Gary C. Peters

Representative Scott Peters

Representative Chellie Pingree

Representative David Price

Representative Mike Quigley

Representative Charles Rangel

Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard

Representative Bobby L. Rush

Representative Linda T. Sanchez

Representative Loretta Sanchez

Representative John P. Sarbanes

Representative Janice Schakowsky

Representative Brad Schneider

Representative Kurt Schrader

Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz

Representative Robert C. Scott

Representative José E. Serrano

Representative Carol Shea-Porter

Representative Brad Sherman

Representative Albio Sires

Representative Louise Slaughter

Representative Adam Smith

Representative Jackie Speier

Representative Eric Swalwell

Representative Mike Thompson

Representative John F. Tierney

Representative Dina Titus

Representative Paul Tonko

Representative Niki Tsongas

Representative Chris Van Hollen

Representative Juan Vargas

Representative Marc Veasey

Representative Filemon Vela

Representative Nydia Velazquez

Representative Tim Walz

Representative Henry A. Waxman

Representative Peter Welch

Representative Frederica S. Wilson

Representative John Yarmuth

Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator John Walsh

Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Senator Mark Pryor

Representative Chaka Fattah

Representative Xavier Becerra

Representative John Carney

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