President Barack Obama is being urged to sign an executive order which would ban federal contractors from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

A group of 72 lawmakers led by New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone on Tuesday sent a letter to the president urging him to act.

The order, the lawmakers said, was vital to ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees “receive the same protections and opportunities as all other Americans.”

“In 1965, President Johnson established Executive Order 11246 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

“The opportunity to expand protections against workplace discrimination to members of the LGBT community is a critical step that you can take today, especially when data and research tell us that 43 percent of LGBT people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination.”

The lawmakers noted that a majority of American companies say such protection helps “attract the best talent, reduce employee turnover, and overall is a plus to their bottom lines.”

The House's four openly gay members – Representatives Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Jared Polis of Colorado, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and David Cicilline of Rhode Island – were among the lawmakers who signed the letter.

A poll released last week showed an overwhelming majority (73%) of likely voters support such an order.