By definition, an executive order is “a rule or order issued by the president to an executive branch of the government and having the force of law”. Rather than our run of the mill laws that stop us from doing things like sticking up an entire supermarket for its ice cream sandwiches or bursting every fire hydrant on the street in the name of ‘Summer hydration’, executive orders simply tell certain parts of the United States government how they’re meant to do their jobs. Last week, that meant that United States President Barack Obama signed an executive order to bar federal contractors (business that have contracts with the United States to complete certain jobs or tasks) from discriminating against their hired workers on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity. That was a groundbreaking move as it meant that LGBTQ workers would be further protected but with questions being asked about the protections for LGBTQ workers employed directly by the United States government, Obama has swiftly silenced doubters.
How did he do this? With another executive order! Being the President sure has its benefits and now the advantages of this are being extended to LGBTQ federal employees as the second historic executive order signed by the man in charge of the USA sees anti-discrimination protection extended to those too. What the executive order covers is a great deal of things and it means that finally, LGBTQ federal employees (this includes those who are transgender or gender non-conforming if the binary isn’t your thing) cannot be fired, denied promotion, or passed up on being hired based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In short, it means that everyone on the government’s payroll in some way, shape or form can get on with the jobs they intended to do without the laws holding them down!
In a speech that got laughs, smiles and even applause as President Obama detailed all of the positive things that his country had succeeded in passing (removing the Defense of Marriage Act and the same-gender marriage victories were both mentioned), he also explained that a large aspect of his decision to make these executive orders is because Congress, often halted by Republican opposition to more progressive laws, has failed to do so,
“The majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies to protect their employees because it’s the right thing to do and because many say it helps to retain and attract the best talent. And I agree. So if Congress won’t act, I will. I have directed my staff to prepare an executive order for my signature that prohibits discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Applause.)”
Granted, there’s still a long way to go yet but hopefully with Obama signing incredibly important executive orders left and right, Congress and politicians on a state level will get it together and follow suit too.