Last updated: August 01. 2014 4:30AM - 283 Views

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President Obama did the right thing by signing an executive order that expands protection from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Moving to block the violation of a person’s civil rights based on who they are is such a basic function of our government that the president’s action should be considered a no-brainer.

In theory, broad anti-discrimination laws should offer adequate protection for everyone. In practice, we still live in a society in which specific language is necessary to protect the basic rights of people.

Vermont recognized this in 2007 when Gov. Jim Douglas signed legislation that added gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws, including the statute covering employment practices.

The executive order takes a step in following in Vermont’s footsteps, but also exposes the inadequate protection federal laws offer those who face discrimination based on their sexual identity.

The president’s executive order does two things.

The order extends the protection from employment discrimination by the federal government based on sexual orientation to cover gender identity.

The White House also prohibits any company that receives a federal contract from discriminating against employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, a group also referred to as LGBT.

Millions of Americans face the threat of losing their job over their sexual orientation or gender identity, Obama said at the signing ceremony.

“And that’s wrong,” he said. “We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend the arc of justice a little bit in a better direction.”

This country must do more than “bend the arc of justice.”

Even an employer’s sincerely held religious belief can be the basis for discrimination in the public sphere, such as employment. The nation is finally moving toward accepting this tenet as applied to race, ethnicity and gender.

Sexual identity is as basic to any person’s humanity as race, ethnicity or gender. The prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity should be the law of the land.

— The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press

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