The White House is preparing to announce an executive order barring contractors doing business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. quoted an unnamed White House official as saying: “Following on his pledge for this to be a year of action to expand opportunity for all Americans, the President has directed his staff to prepare for his signature an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The action would build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This is consistent with the President’s views that all Americans, LGBT or not, should be treated with dignity and respect.”

“Executive action to ban fed contractors from discriminating against #LGBT workers is good for America & for business,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted.

President Barack Obama has previously ruled out such an order, saying he prefers passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – which would apply to all businesses – and called on Congress to act. ENDA has cleared the Senate but House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has blocked the legislation in the House.

“By issuing an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people, the President will not only create fairer workplaces across the country, he will demonstrate to Congress that adopting federal employment protections for LGBT people is good policy and good for business,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's leading LGBT rights advocate. “The White House statement today is promising, and we look forward to seeing the details of the executive order.”

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, ENDA's champion in the Senate, applauded the move but also called on Boehner to act.

“No more excuses,” Merkley, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It's way past time for Speaker Boehner to allow ENDA to have a vote in the House. No one should be fired because of who they are or whom they love.”