At a White House reception celebrating LGBTI pride, US President Barack Obama surprised attendees when he announced plans to sign an executive order protecting all federal workers from gender identity discrimination.
This is in addition to the executive order he plans to sign to protect employees of federal contractors from anti-LGBTI discrimination.
Obama's action is taking place as the US House of Representatives continues to stall the Employment Non-Discrimination Act already passed by the US Senate.
'Right now, there are more states that let same-sex couples get married than there are states who prohibit discrimination against their LGBT workers,' Obama said, according to a transcript from The New Civil Rights Movement.
'We have laws that say Americans can’t be fired on the basis of the color of their skin or their religion, or because they have a disability. But every day, millions of Americans go to work worried that they could lose their job -– not because of anything they’ve done but because of who they are. It’s upsetting. It is wrong.'
Obama pointed out that the majority of Fortune 500 companies already have non-discrimination policies to protect their employees. He said it is the right thing to do could help to retain and attract the best talent.
'So if Congress won’t act, I will. I have directed my staff to prepare an executive order for my signature that prohibits discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.And I’ve asked my staff to prepare a second executive order so that federal employees - who are already protected on the basis of sexual orientation - will now formally be protected from discrimination based on gender identity as well.'
Obama, the first US president to publicly come out in support of same-sex marriage, said that while there is a lot ot be proud of in terms of gains made in LGBTI equality, it is no time to grow complacent.
'We’ve got to defend the progress that we’ve made,' he said. 'We’ve got to keep on reaching out to LGBT Americans who are vulnerable and alone, and need our support - whether it’s teenagers in rough situations to seniors who are struggling to find housing and care.'