Federal contractors will no longer be able to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, under a new executive order from President Barack Obama that took effect Wednesday.
Obama signed the order last summer, and the administration said then that it was a first step toward ensuring these protections for all workers around the country.
"We still need to go further," Labor Secretary Tom Perez said at the time. "Passage of federal legislation to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would mean that all workers across the country would enjoy these protections."
Perez said Wednesday that discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability and veteran status was already prohibited for employees of federal contractors. The executive order explicitly adds protections to LGBT workers.
Anne Rung, the White House administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement, wrote that of the 50 biggest federal contractors, 86 percent already prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, and three-fifths already prohibited gender identity bias.
But like Perez, she said a federal law is needed to ban this discrimination in the private sector.
"In too many sectors and too many states, LGBT workers can be fired or not promoted simply because of who they are and who they love," she wrote.
The executive order sets the new anti-discrimination rules in place for federal contractors and subcontractors that do more than $10,000 in business with the federal government each year.