President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order barring contractors doing business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In remarks before signing the order, Obama chided Congress for not passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), workplace legislation which would apply to all employers, not just federal contractors.

“But I'm going to do what I can with the authority I have to act,” Obama said. “The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation to resolve this problem once and for all.” (An AP video report is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

Notably absent from the order are any religious exemptions beyond allowing religiously affiliated contractors to favor individuals of a particular religion with regard to employment.

The president had previously rejected calls to sign the executive order, saying legislation would offer a broader and more durable solution.

The order also, for the first time, protects transgender federal employees from discrimination.

Obama announced the addition of transgender protections during the White House's annual reception marking LGBT Pride Month.

“I've asked my staff to prepare a second executive order so that federal employees – who are already protected on the basis of sexual orientation – will now formally be protected from discrimination based on gender identity as well,” Obama said during the East Room celebration.

Tico Almeida, founder and president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work, applauded the move.

“President Obama's signature sends a strong message: Update your workplace policies to protect LGBT employees or forfeit your highly lucrative taxpayer-funded contracts,” Almeida said in a statement. “This is a watershed moment in our country's march toward equality.”

The new policy takes effect in early 2015.