(L-R) Art Padilla and Howard Judd, representatives of the 82nd Airborne Division, speak with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team members George Blackard, project engineer; Karl Gabzdyl, resident engineer; and Victor Smith, construction control representative, at a construction site at Fort Bragg, N.C.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors has gone into full effect today. The new rule, the result of Obama’s order last July, could have a significant impact on workers in North Carolina, where thousands of federal contractors are working with the state’s large military presence.

Each year, billions of taxpayer dollars are spent with private companies doing business with the government. Under the new non-discrimination guidelines, these companies will be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring, firing, pay and promotion.

That’s a positive move for thousands of workers in North Carolina, where the state’s large military presence demands services from the private sector.

In 2013, the Department of Defense had more than 21,000 individual contracts in North Carolina.

Those contracts are diverse, but they’re not always what people assume. Much of the work is for smaller companies offering a variety of services to military-related agencies or bases — including even janitorial services.

“People think planes, tanks, submarines,” Scott Dorney, executive director of the North Carolina Military Business Center, told qnotes for a report last year. “That’s not what we’re talking about in North Carolina. We’re talking about companies that make boots or uniforms or jeans or do information technology services for the military. There are also other commercial services like locksmithing and janitorial. Most of the federal contracts are in construction but a lot of them are state or local businesses as well.”

Nationally, the impact will be felt widely. A 2012 study from the Williams Institute showed that as many as 16.5 million people work for federal contractors. Of those, 400,000-600,000 might be LGBT. It’s unclear exactly how many LGBT workers will be affected in North Carolina.

At the state level, government workers are not protected on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, though several cities and counties do offer those protections.

Two bills recently introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly would expand employment protections to state employees.

One month before Obama signed his executive order North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory opted not to include LGBT protections in his own equal employment executive order. McCrory and his administration staff declined at the time to answer more in-depth questions regarding McCrory’s positions.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.