U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order preventing homophobic and transphobic discrimination in the U.S. federal agencies and contractors on July 21.
"America's federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people," Obama stated at a signing ceremony at the White House.
Obama added sexual orientation and gender identity to race, religion, gender or nationality, which are protected from discrimination in federal contractor hiring practices by an executive order signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
Obama also amended an order signed by President Richard Nixon in 1969 to ban discrimination against federal workers based on race, religion, gender, nationality, age or disability. President Bill Clinton added sexual orientation while Obama added gender identity.
In much of the U.S., an employee can still be fired for simply being gay.
Only 18 American states and the District of Columbia explicitly ban employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to a White House news release, studies have found that 40 percent of LGBT workers have experienced employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation and 90 percent of transgender individuals have experienced discrimination while working.
Obama urged congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The first version of the act was proposed on the House floor in 1974. The U.S. Senate passed the latest version of the act last year but did not go any further in the House.