23 years before the Civil Rights Act, Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order that banned the federal government, including the armed forces, from discriminating on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin. Now advocates are hoping president Obama will do something similarly radical for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and make it illegal, by executive order, for any company contracted by the federal government to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Most Americans don't think such an order is necessary. Because nine in 10 Americans already think it's illegal to discriminate against LGBT Americans in the workplace, according to a June 2011 poll by the Center for American Progress. But those employees actually lack federal protections. In most parts of this country, employers can legally fire someone, deny them a promotion, or refuse to hire them for being gay.