In a major victory for LGBT advocates, the White House confirmed the executive orders will not include sweeping religious exemptions that would allow religiously affiliated employers to discriminate against LGBT workers. This was a particular point of concern for LGBT advocates after the US Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, which allows some employers to cite their religion as a reason to not follow Obamacare's birth control mandate.
The executive orders essentially expand already existing nondiscrimination rules for federal contractors and federal employers. Federal contractors already can't discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and federal employers can't discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation.
Obama's orders, however, won't repeal a previous order signed by President George W. Bush that allows religiously affiliated federal contractors to prioritize hiring employees who hold the same religion. A White House official said Bush's order will allow employers to pick people of a certain religious preference but not discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The executive orders are necessary, the White House says, because no federal law currently protects LGBT workers. Some LGBT groups argue, however, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could be used to shield LGBT workers from discrimination.