USAID is to ‘strongly encourage’ all businesses contracting with it in the more than 50 countries it operates in to not discriminate against LGBT workers.
The new policy has not been formally announced but was discovered by Nan Hunter, a law professor at Georgetown University who first posted the new policy on her blog.
She called the change a “breakthrough,” but noted that it can’t be enforced.
“Technically it isn’t enforceable in the sense that a contractor who fails to adopt these policies could be cited as out of compliance. However, it sends a strong signal that such policies are favored, and creates an incentive for any private company that contracts with USAID to conform its policies to this guidance.”
The new policy is spelled out in an executive message [PDF] dated October 11.
This says that it is intended to “encourage all USAID contractors and recipients, including those performing solely overseas, to apply comprehensive nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, marital status, parental status, political affiliation, and any other conduct that does not affect performance.”
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, told the Washington Blade that USAID “deserves credit” for observing that taxpayers “should not have to subsidize anti-LGBT discrimination and harassment,” but also noted the change isn’t binding.
“If a USAID contractor fires a qualified employee just because she is lesbian or because he is transgender, those employees will still not be allowed to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor seeking enforcement of the workplace protections encouraged under this new symbolic policy,” Almeida said.
That’s because President Obama has not issued an executive order forcing all federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies in place based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which many LGBT rights advocates have pushed for and as Truman did in 1941 for race.
This means that the USAID move cannot be mandatory as businesses could argue that additional requirements would contradict current law.
Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, told the Washington Blade that the new policy is a step in the right direction and could encourage other agencies to follow USAID’s lead.
“I’ve heard that new language in USAID contracts and grants will encourage the agency’s program implementers to follow USAID’s existing policies by extending nondiscrimination provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity. I think USAID deserves a lot of credit for their leadership and hope others will follow.”
USAID appointed a senior coordinator on LGBT issues in July as well as setting up a new policy committee to facilitate the integration of LGBT issues into the agency’s work.
According to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (DAC/OECD), the United States remains the largest donor of “official development assistance” at $23.53 billion in 2006. DAC/OECD reports that the next largest donor was the United Kingdom ($12.46b).
However relative to its economy, the U.S. is the second lowest provider, among the DAC countries, with a 0.17% of GNI in aid. Only Greece provides a lower percentage of GNI in the form of aid.
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