President Obama on Monday announced he would sign an executive order protecting federal employees from being discriminated against on the basis of gender identity. Discriminating against federal employees based on sexual orientation is already banned.
Obama made the announcement at a Pride Month Celebration in the East Room of the White House, where the president and his wife, Michelle, recognized gay Americans who have been influential in their lives. He recounted the steps he has taken to advance gay rights, including signing hate crimes legislation and working to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
The executive order is Obama’s latest use of his administrative powers in this area. Earlier this month, he announced he would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
He made the announcement after years of pressure by gay rights advocates. Obama had called for passage of federal legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but Congress has declined to pass it.
Still, Obama said, his administration has “gone further in protecting the rights of lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender Americans than any administration in history.”
In his remarks, Obama highlighted the presence of his former professor at Occidental College, Lawrence Goldyn, who was openly gay when Obama was studying there in 1979, before he transferred to Columbia University.
“When I went in as a freshman .. I guess there were maybe a couple of other gay professors, but they weren’t wildly open about it. Lawrence was not shy,” the president said. “And I took a class from him, and because he was one of the young professors, we became really good friends. But also, he was the first openly gay person that I knew who was unapologetic, who stood his ground. If somebody gave him guff, he’d give them guff right back, and was, I think, part of a generation that really fought so many battles that ultimately came into fruition later. And he also played a huge role in advising lesbian, gay and transgender students at the school at a time when that was still hard for a lot of young college kids. And he went on to become a doctor and ran an AIDS clinic, and now is the head of a health center.”