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Poll: Majority Favor Protecting Gays, Lesbians From Workplace Discrimination

Most Americans say they favor an executive order banning workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, according to a poll sponsored by a gay rights group. Conservatives and liberals alike back the workplace measure, as the terrain shifts.

Posted on March 28, 2012, at 10:01 a.m. ET

A large majority of Americans say they would support an executive order that would legally protect gays, lesbians and transgender people at companies that contract with the government, according to a new poll sponsored by the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, which is pushing for the measure.

The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll's survey of 800 likely voters indicated that 73 percent of 2012 voters favor instituting a Johnson Administration-style executive order that would protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination. The rule would add to a standing executive order from the '60s bans federal contractors from discriminating against workers based on age, sex, race, or religion, but not sexual orientation.

Ninety percent of self-identified liberals support the measure, according to the poll, while a full 60% of conservatives support it, one of several findings suggesting how broadly uncontroversial such anti-discrimination laws have become. The poll found no difference in the responses of people with and without college educations, with roughly three quarters of both groups backing it.

Most people, per the poll, already believe that discrimination is illegal on a federal basis. Eighty-seven percent said they believe it's illegal — only five percent knew correctly that a federal order like this does not exist.

The executive order would be a kind of shortcut to what the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 and never passed, could accomplish. The bill's latest incarnation, including language protecting transgender people, was introduced by Barney Frank last year.

President Obama issues executive orders on a regular basis; his latest executive orders include one aimed at improving federal review of infrastructure projects and one "establishing a White House council on strong cities, strong communities."

The new poll asked: “As you may know, under current federal law and in many states, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are NOT protected from discrimination in the work place. Would you support or oppose a policy that required companies that do business with the federal government to not discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in employment?”