November 21, 2011

The Nov. 16 Style article “Partway to equality” correctly noted that the federal government lags many private companies when it comes to workplace fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, and that the Defense of Marriage Act prevents President Obama from granting health-insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. However, the president’s hands are not completely tied.

Mr. Obama could issue an executive order guaranteeing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Americans the freedom to work for federal contractors without fear of discrimination or harassment on the job. For more than 70 years, federal policy has sought to ensure that taxpayers do not subsidize discrimination based on irrelevant characteristics such as race or religion. It is now time to bring our government’s contractor policies into the current century by adding workplace protections to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Tico Almeida, Washington

The writer is president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work.