Gay rights advocate: Republicans on the 'wrong side of history'

Gay rights advocates are firing back at House Republicans who they say are trying to delay new workplace protections for LGBT employees.

The Department of Labor issued new rules Wednesday preventing federal contractors from discriminating against employees because of their sexual orientation.

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But gay rights advocates say some House Republicans, including Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), are trying to block the rules by questioning whether proper procedure was followed.

Tico Almeida, founder and president of the gay rights organization Freedom to Work, accused Kline of being on the “wrong side of history,” in an interview with The Hill.

"Kline represents a moderate district where the majority of voters support LGBT workplace protections, so this is clearly an example of Kline pandering to the extremist Tony Perkins element of the Republican base,” said Almeida, who is also the former chief counsel on LGBT issues to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). Perkins is head of the Family Research Council, a prominent opponent of gay rights initiatives.

"Kline is waging a war that is a real political loser for the Republican Party, and he’s on the wrong side of history,” Almeida added.

Kline and subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) wrote to the Labor Department earlier this week complaining that the agency did not open the rules up for public comment.

The Labor Department sent the rule to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for approval on Oct. 20.

The lawmakers did not air any specific grievances with the rules, but asked the agency to withdraw them until they go through a formal public comment period.

“Public comment is essential to all rulemakings,” Kline and Walberg wrote.

“At no point was a draft rule made available to the public for comment prior to the final rule being sent to OMB,” they added. "Such a notice-and-comment period would have provided the public an opportunity to alert (the Labor Department) to problems that may arise implementing the executive order.”

Neither the Labor Department nor Kline’s office responded to a requests for comment. But a spokesman for Kline did point to the letter.

The LGBT workplace protections spring directly from President Obama’s executive order from July, which called for the Labor Department to issue these rules.

The workplace protections will prohibit federal contractors from firing, disciplining or not hiring an employee because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Though the rules do not apply to all private companies, government contractors that discriminate against gay employees risk losing billions of dollars in federal contracts if they don't comply.

These companies are already prohibited from discriminating against employees because of their sex, race, color, religion or nationality.

LGBT workers are protected in 18 states and Washington, D.C., but previously there were no federal rules protecting gay employees across the country.