President Obama signed the executive order on Monday

In a historic move, President Obama has finally outlawed discrimination against LGBT federal government employees as well as those employed by federal contractors.

On Monday, Obama signed an executive order extending all basic protections, benefits and policies to these workers.

Notably, the order does not allow for religious exemptions as requested by conservative and religious groups.

There are around 2.7 million federal employees, while federal contractors employ an estimated one-fifth of the US workforce.

Equality in the workplace is “good for business,” said Obama before signing the order. He commented “that are people here today who have lost their jobs because of [being LGBT]. It is time to address this injustice for every American.”

He added: “We’re on the right side of history!”

The White House said in a statement earlier that workplace equality “improves productivity, reduces turnover and supports their bottom line.”

Only 18 US states and the District of Columbia have laws explicitly protecting LGBT workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and no federal law protects LGBT workers from being fired because of who they are or who they love.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin welcomed the news. “With the strokes of a pen, the President [has had] a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of LGBT people across the country.

“Each and every American worker should be judged based on the work they do, and never because of a fundamental aspect of who they are – like their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said.

Griffin also called on Congress to immediately pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The act, which would ban discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, however, is controversial. While it has the backing of the HRC, other LGBT groups and activists oppose it because it allows for some exemptions based on religious belief.

According to surveys and studies, more than four in ten LGB people have experienced some form of employment discrimination at some point in their lives, and 90% of transgender employees have experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.

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