Trump nixes Obama order preventing federal workers from being fired because they’re LGBT

With a stroke of his pen Trump has knocked the teeth out of federal compliance regulations protecting LGBT workers

Published March 30, 2017 10:58PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Shawn Thew)
(Getty/Shawn Thew)

President Trump has repealed an executive order that advocates believe will provide loophole for employers to discriminate against LGBT people.

As part of his stated goal to strike down two pieces of federal regulation for every new policy introduced by the White House, the POTUS nixed Executive Order 13673 on Monday, along with two other Obama EOs. Known as the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Order,” that order required contractors who work with the federal government to demonstrate that they have complied with laws barring discrimination on gender identity and sexual orientation for at least three years. That policy was introduced in July 2014 along with an EO prohibiting bias against LGBT workers in all federal contracting.

Although Donald Trump has claimed he would uphold the Obama order explicitly condemning anti-LGBT bias, civil rights groups argue that policy is more difficult to mandate without federal enforcement.

The Obama order was really a way of making sure the federal government was only directing federal contracting dollars to businesses who were good actors,” said Sharon McGowan, Director of Strategy at Lambda Legal. “What President Trump did by repealing the executive order was eliminate a really powerful tool to ensure that companies wanting to get federal business and contracting dollars comply with all their federal obligations.”

“It says a lot about what the ethos of this administration is and will be for the next four years,” she added. “It’s not one that’s interested in advancing the interests of American workers.”

The repeal of Executive Order 13673, although it most directly impacts the LGBT community, has implications for a wide swath of federal regulation designed to prevent discrimination against women and minority communities. The 14 laws it affects include the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The latter prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, which the Obama administration extended in 2015 to include gender identity and sexual orientation.

Selisse Berry, CEO and founder of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said that Trump’s decision to repeal the Obama order is “out of sync” with corporate values of equality.

“Businesses have led the way for LGBT equality even as federal legislation lagged,” Berry said in a statement. “Today, an astounding 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies embrace LGB employees through non-discrimination policies and 82 percent include gender identity. . . . Businesses are some of the most prominent and powerful voices against discriminatory legislation.”

Major corporations have steadily become more inclusive in the past few decades. When the Human Rights Campaign first launched its Corporate Equality Index in 2002, just 13 companies earned a perfect score on that survey — including Apple, Eastman Kodak, Intel, Nike and Xerox. As controversies like the battle over North Carolina’s HB 2 demonstrate the costs of discrimination, more companies have realized the benefits of protections for LGBT workers. 517 companies earned a top score on the last HRC report.

McGowan argued that the Obama policies played an important role in pushing corporate America forward.

“For people who don’t give a hoot about doing the right thing but care about the bottom line, this is a way of making compliance with federal law directly tied to the ability of these companies to maintain corporate profits,” she said.

If McGowan claims that a “very significant portion of the workforce” today does business with the U.S. government, that’s a huge blow to the millions of LGBT workers who are employed at these businesses. But David Stacy, the Director of Government Affairs at HRC, claimed that what’s most worrisome about the executive order’s repeal is that it sets an unfortunate precedent. Although Trump vowed to “protect our LGBT citizens” from harm following the 2016 Pulse shooting, his administration rolled back guidance on Title IX protections for trans students last month, which were enacted just last year.

“It signals that the administration could continue to repeal Obama-era policies aimed at protecting LGBT people,” Stacy said.

The announcement of Executive Order 13673’s repeal comes at an auspicious moment for the Trump White House. After news broke that LGBT seniors would be erased from two national surveys conducted by the federal government, the Census Bureau reported that questions on gender identity and sexual orientation will not be included in the 2020 survey, contrary to previous reports. 

“This topic is not being proposed to Congress for the 2020 Census or American Community Survey,” the Bureau said in a statement.

A recent Gallup report estimated there are more than 10 million LGBT Americans.

By Nico Lang