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By Timothy M. Phelps, Published March 16 2014

Gay activists press Obama for legislation banning discrimination

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama worked successfully to end discrimination against gays in the military and moved swiftly to implement a Supreme Court ruling protecting married gay couples from federal discrimination.

But gay rights advocates are upset about something he has not done that they say he could accomplish with a pen stroke: an executive order banning federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Advocates say an order would provide employment protections for about 11 million workers who currently have none. Many of the nation’s largest companies and 21 states already have policies or laws against sexual-orientation discrimination, but workers at many medium-sized companies in conservative states lack such a shield.

“This is the single most important thing that President Obama can do on his own in his second term to eradicate discrimination from the workplace,” said Ian Thompson, a legislative representative in the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Precedent exists for such a move. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson banned companies that do business with the federal government from racial discrimination in employment, hiring or promotions. The proposed ban on sexual-orientation discrimination is modeled after the Johnson-era order.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “What we’re focused on is a legislative remedy that would be more comprehensive and that has already seen progress in Congress.”