Prominent trans and gay faith leaders and leading bi advocates stood by President Obama this morning as he signed an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity against federal workers and contractors. The legislation itself was not the only part of the day to make history; the guest list broke ground, too.
According to the Associated Press, federal contactors employ one-fifth of the U.S. workforce.
Visible right beside the President of the US is Faith Cheltenham, President of the bisexual advocacy organization BiNet USA, as Obama spoke to the crowd and signed the historic legislation.
"I was so happy to be there and support my president," Faith told GLAAD during a phone call after the event.
GLAAD continues to work closely with Faith and BiNet USA in preparation for Celebrate Bisexuality Day in September.
Also present at the signing were prominent clergy and lay LGBT advocates, including Vivian Taylor, Executive Director of the Episcopal group Integrity and one of the first openly trans ED's of a mainline denominational LGBT organization; and Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the history of Christianity.
“I am deeply honored to represent Integrity at this historic event. Employment discrimination against our people is still a near-constant threat and burden,” said Vivian, who served in the Iraq war.
In a recent blog post for Believe Out Loud, Vivian described her own struggle with employment discrimination, in which she wrote:
I am haunted by the frustration, anger, and outright fear of so many who are denied work simply because of who they are…It robs people of the dignity of work and the dignity of self-reliance. According to a study from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 47% of transgender people have faced employment discrimination. This number is staggeringly high. Employment discrimination puts transgender people at significantly higher levels of risk of lifetime suicide attempts. Employment discrimination kills.
The executive order does not include an exemption for faith-based groups beyond exceptions for groups directly involved in ministry. Earlier this month, Vivian and Bishop Robinson co-signed a letter urging Obama not to broaden this exemption. Cameron Partridge, first openly transgender priest to preach at Washington National Cathedral, was also among the dozens of signers who were representing a variety of faith traditions.