Dems to Obama: Sign order protecting gay contract workers

A group of 195 Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday sent a letter to President Obama urging him to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation. 

The group, which includes 47 senators and 148 House members, wrote that Obama should fulfill his State of the Union address promise by making this a “year of action.”

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Spearheaded by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the letter said the order would be another step in furthering his "legacy as a champion for [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] equality." 

"We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get [legislation] to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step," the letter reads. 

Some gay-rights advocates have expressed disappointment with the administration's failure to tackle the issue, especially after it announced earlier this year it would raise the minimum wage for those federal contract workers. 

The Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act late last year with 62 votes, including those by 10 Republicans. However, Republican leaders in the House have resisted calls to take up the bill. They claim it would lead to frivolous litigation and is likely unnecessary because federal law already protects gay workers. 

The letter urged Obama to make the order soon, because it would take months to implement. Similar letters have been sent in the last few years. 

"Time is of the essence," the letter reads. "Even with an executive order in place, full implementation of these protections will require regulations to be developed and finalized, a process that will take many months, if not longer, to fully put in place."

The group said the order would be in line with past presidents' moves to scale back discrimination in the workplace. The letter cited former Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. The order would bring the government in line with many other large government contractors that already adopted the policies, the letter said. 

“We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans,” according to the letter.