WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, fulfilling a promise to a crucial Democratic constituency, White House officials said Friday. But the directive will not exempt religious groups, as many of them had sought.
The order will also, for the first time, explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, officials said. Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who work for the federal government already have such protections.
Gay groups campaigned intensely to persuade Obama to sign the order after the Supreme Court's decision last month in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. In that ruling, the court said family-run corporations with religious objections can be exempted from providing employees with insurance coverage for contraception, and there were fears the case would have repercussions for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
Religious groups had sought the exemption to ensure they would not lose federal money or contracts if they could not meet the new guidelines because of their beliefs. Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, said he expects the president's executive order would lead to a long legal fight.
"It would be better if the president could provide leadership that promotes tolerance all the way around," Carey said, "rather than use the force of the state."
He said the exemption would have protected the groups' freedom and "social harmony as our nation is working through these issues, on which there's a lot of disagreement."
The directive is the latest example of Obama acting unilaterally after legislation on a domestic priority was stymied by GOP opposition on Capitol Hill. His executive orders have angered Republicans, and Speaker John Boehner is preparing a lawsuit to protest the president's moves.