This recent order amends two existing executive orders. First, by adding to Executive Order 11,246, which applies to federal contractors sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classes protected from employment discrimination. Second by amending Executive Order 11,478, which applies to federal governmental workers, to explicitly prohibit gender identity discrimination takes effect immediately. The contractor order is expected to go into effect in early 2015, after the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issues implementing regulations.
This executive order comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that an Affordable Care Act provision requiring employers to pay for certain forms of contraception for workers violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to closely held corporations. That Supreme Court opinion left open the question of whether certain closely held corporations can challenge other legal requirements based on religious opposition.