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Obama order to bar anti-gay bias

Applies only to federal contracts; move applauded

– President Barack Obama will sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against gays, lesbians and others on the basis of their sexual orientation – an election-year move that follows years of pressure by gay rights organizations.

Obama’s decision to proceed with the executive order, announced Monday by the White House, immediately delighted gay rights groups, even as it signaled that Obama doesn’t believe broader action by Congress is likely. Obama is set to address a fundraiser hosted by the Democratic National Committee’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender council today in New York.

“The President has directed his staff to prepare for his signature an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” a White House official said in a statement. “The action would build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This is consistent with the President’s views that all Americans, LGBT or not, should be treated with dignity and respect.”

Obama’s past refusal to sign an executive order was long a source of tension with gay rights organizations, which in the past expressed frustration and anger with the president’s reluctance to engage on this specific measure.

On Monday, however, top groups lavished the administration with praise for the action.

The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, a research organization for LGBT issues, has said that 16.5 million federal workers potentially would be protected by an executive action of this sort. It did not cite a specific number of workers who have likely faced discrimination. A 2013 survey of LGBT adults by the Pew Research Center found that 21 percent reported facing workplace discrimination.

This is at least the second time Obama has chosen to use an executive action affecting only government contractors after Congress balked at broader proposals.

Earlier this year, Obama signed an executive order that requires contractors to pay their employees a minimum wage of $10.10. Congress has refused to embrace a similar provision affecting all employers.