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December 12 , 2014

Administration unveils pro-LGBT guidance

Washington, D.C.--The Obama administration kicked off December with two moves towards LGBT equality that do not rely on going through a Congress that has tried to stonewall every move Pres. Barack Obama has made.

The first was the December 3 issuance of a final rule barring discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors. It is the end result of Obama’s executive order on July 21.

Obama’s executive order added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Equal Opportunity Clause of government contracts.

The rule does not require employers to track data about LGBT employees or to ask employees to voluntarily identify as LGBT, although employers can if they choose.

The final rule takes effect in four months, 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register, and applies to contracts signed or modified after it takes effect. Extensions of existing contracts are considered modifications, and would fall under the non-discrimination rule.

Tico Almeida, president and founder of Freedom to Work, noted, “Today’s Labor Department regulations start a 120 day countdown clock for ExxonMobil, the most anti-gay corporation in America, so completely reverse their anti-LGBT workplace policies or face losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts next year.”

“While our litigation against Exxon is currently before the Illinois Human Rights Department, the oil giant’s failure to change their policies opens them up to new legal complaints based on President Obama’s latest executive order,” he continued. “As we look to settle our case, we call on Labor Secretary Tom Perez to help unsure that ExxonMobil adequately amends its Standards of Business Conduct and does away with its notorious and offensive anti-LGBT workplace policies and practices.”

Despite shareholder-initiated efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ExxonMobil’s policies, expansions have been defeated year after year.

Jerame Davis, the executive director of Pride At Work, said, “At Pride At Work, we welcome this long-awaited change to federal contractor employment policy. We commend the president and his administration for its commitment to LGBT equality and, especially, for standing up for LGBT workers, but this rule is not a silver bullet.”

“PrideAt Work reaffirms its call for Congress to pass a clean, comprehensive LGBT anti-discrimination bill and reasserts that, even with these rules and laws in place, the added protection of a union contract is a necessary and vital part protecting LGBT workers,” Davis said.

Five days later, on December 8, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin and gender to the list of categories by which federal law enforcement agencies are forbidden from profiling. The guidelines also apply to local and state law enforcement agents working on federal task forces.

“As Attorney General, I have repeatedly made clear that racial profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is misguided and ineffective - because it can mistakenly focus investigative efforts, waste precious resources and, ultimately, undermine the public trust,” Holder said. “Particularly in light of recent incidents we’ve seen at the local level - and the concerns about trust in the criminal justice process which so many have raised throughout the nation - it’s imperative that we take every possible action to institute sound, fair and strong policing practices.”

“With this new Guidance, we take a major and important step forward to ensure effective policing by federal law enforcement officials – as well as state and local law enforcement participating in federal task forces throughout the nation,” he added. “This Guidance is the product of five years of scrupulous review. It codifies important new protections for those who come into contact with federal law enforcement agents and their partners. And it brings enhanced training, oversight, and accountability to federal law enforcement across the country, so that isolated acts do not tarnish the exemplary work that’s performed by the overwhelming majority of America’s hard-working law enforcement officials each and every day.”

The guidance allows the consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, national original, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity if “there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality or time frame, that links persons possessing a particular listed characteristic to an identified criminal incident, scheme, or organization, a threat to national or homeland security, a violation of Federal immigration law, or an authorized intelligence activity.”

A Human Rights Campaign release on the directive noted, “Unfortunately, DOJ’s revised guidance is limited. It does not apply to state and local law enforcement which is vitally important for preventing street-level profiling that occurs across the country. In addition, exceptions remain for the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection; two agencies that disproportionately profile based on race and perceived or actual religion. Finally, the guidance does not curb the offensive practice of ‘racial mapping’ of American communities.”

“Despite these concerns, HRC commends the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder for taking a stand to protect LGBT communities across the nation,” it continues. “HRC will continue to work with our coalition partners to address concerns that are shared by the broader civil rights communities.”

 

 

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