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Obama to Enhance Gay Rights In Federally Supported Workplaces

June 17, 2014

President Obama will sign an executive order prohibiting federal contracts from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the White House said on Monday. The move could affect employees at some colleges and universities that do business with the federal government.

“It’s very likely that a majority of higher education institutions already provide protections on these grounds that are covered by the executive order,” said Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education. “But there may be institutions, either for religious reasons or due to state law, that would have difficulty complying.”

It is legal for employers in 29 states to fire someone or deny employment on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.

It wasn’t clear how broadly the order would be applied to government contractors, which can include colleges and universities in certain cases. But the order will be less sweeping than the employer anti-discrimination legislation that the Senate passed and Obama supports. The president previously resisted calls to take executive action on the issue. 

The White House did not announce a timeframe for when the president would sign the order. 

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Michael Stratford

Michael Stratford, Reporter, covers federal policy for Inside Higher Ed. He joined the publication in August 2013 after a stint covering the Arkansas state legislature for The Associated Press. He previously worked and interned at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and The Chronicle of Higher Education. At The Chronicle, he wrote about federal policy and covered higher education issues in the 2012 elections. Michael grew up in Belmont, Mass. and graduated from Cornell University, where he was managing editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.

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