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Obama Signs Order Banning Anti-Gay Bias in Federal Work

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July 21 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama today signed an order prohibiting federal agencies and contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers.

Obama said that for too long many gays, bisexuals and transgendered Americans have been discriminated against because of who they are.

“That’s wrong,” Obama said at a ceremony in the White House. “We’re here to do what we can to make it right.”

The president said that discrimination against gays is contrary to American values and bad for business. He urged Congress to make the anti-bias measure part of federal law so that it would extend to all workplaces.

The White House, in a fact sheet, said 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 61 percent prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Of the largest 50 federal contractors, 86 percent prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and 61 percent prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In addition, the five top federal contractors, which receive nearly a quarter of all federal contracting dollars, already bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the document.

“Discrimination is not just wrong, it also can keep qualified workers from maximizing their potential to contribute to the strengthening of our economy,” the White House fact sheet said.

The action adds gender identity for protection, expanding on an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. It doesn’t provide a broader exemption for religious groups sought by some faith-based organizations that do business with the government.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled in a case brought by Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. companies with religious objections can opt out of a requirement to include contraceptive coverage in employee health plans.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net Joe Sobczyk

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