President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from hiring or firing employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, senior administration officials said Monday, in a move that could energize Democratic voters in November’s midterm elections.
The White House announcement is a curtain raiser to Mr. Obama’s appearance Tuesday at a Democratic fundraising gala with gay-rights supporters in New York.
Mr. Obama isn’t expected to sign the executive order for weeks, as the White House finalizes details, including possible exemptions for religious nonprofit organizations. Administration officials said Mr. Obama decided to act unilaterally in the absence of momentum for legislation with broader protections, and said he intends to use the issue to draw a contrast with Republicans.
“An executive order along these lines would not be a substitute for robust congressional action,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “Unfortunately this is yet another example of Republicans blocking Congress on the kind of issue that has pretty strong support all across the country.”
House Republicans have declined to allow a vote on legislation that would bar most employers, not just federal contractors, from discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender workers, saying it could lead to frivolous lawsuits and affect the religious liberty of employers.
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