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White House Press Secretary says Fate of LGBT Nondiscrimination Order Uncertain

Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said today he isn’t sure if the new president will repeal or maintain President Obama’s executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by companies that have contracts with the federal government.

“I just don’t know the answer,” Spicer said in response to a question from the Washington Blade at a press briefing Monday.

In 2014, Obama issued the order prohibiting any company holding a federal contract from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The same year he added gender identity to a nondiscrimination order covering federal government employees; sexual orientation had been included since Bill Clinton’s presidency.

A report released last week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal government agency, indicates the need for nondiscrimination protections. In the fiscal year 2016, the first year the EEOC included detailed information about complaints filed by LGBT people, the agency “resolved 1,650 charges and recovered $4.4 million for LGBT individuals who filed sex discrimination charges with EEOC,” from both the public and private sectors, according to a press release. Fiscal 2016 ran from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. Discrimination complaints overall increased for the second year in a row.

Anti-LGBT discrimination is covered under sex discrimination because the EEOC, at least during the Obama administration, held that anti-LGBT discrimination constituted sex discrimination, which is banned by federal law. Some other federal departments have held that discrimination based on gender identity is covered by this law and that sexual orientation discrimination may be.

No federal law, however, explicitly bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Activists have tried for years tried to pass such a law, first the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and then the much broader Equality Act, without success.

Trump’s support for such nondiscrimination protections is iffy at best. In 2015 he said that being gay shouldn’t be a reason to fire a worker, but it was unclear if he knew much about court rulings or proposed legislation on the matter. And he has surrounded himself with anti-LGBT types. Vice President Mike Pence is well known for such stances, as are Trump’s nominees for several Cabinet positions — Jeff Sessions, Ben Carson, Tom Price, and Rick Perry.

Trump did sign three executive orders Monday. He prohibited U.S. funds from going to any overseas organization that provides abortions or even referrals for them, similar to a policy in place under President Reagan and both Bush administrations. He also put a freeze on federal hiring, except for the military, and withdrew the U.S. from negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

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