April 12, 2012 at 11:38 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Merkley criticizes White House for inaction on ENDA stopgap

The lead Senate sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has expressed disapproval over recent news the White House won’t take administrative action to prohibit job discrimination against LGBT people.

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said he’s “deeply disappointed” the administration decided not issue an executive order requiring companies doing business with the federal government to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Administration will allow companies that accept federal contracts to discriminate against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Merkley said. “Such discrimination in the workplace is unacceptable. There is no way that equal opportunity exists for all Americans when such discrimination is tolerated.”

The senator continued he appreciates the president’s support for ENDA, which would prohibit job bias against LGBT people in the workplace, but that issuing the directive would have an “constructive step” in the effort to pass the legislation.

“I appreciate the president’s support for ENDA and will keep pushing for legislative action,” Merkley said. “However, an executive order would be a very constructive step forward and help build momentum to pass the bill. It’s disappointing that the White House is passing on an opportunity to make immediate gains for equal opportunity in America.”

Merkley’s statement marks the first time that a public official has weighed in on the administration’s decision not to issue the executive order. The senator became one of the first individuals to express support for the directive when he was asked by the Washington Blade whether he backs the measure upon his introduction of ENDA last year.

In a high-level White House meeting on Wednesday, LGBT advocates were informed the White House wouldn’t issue at this time an executive order against LGBT workplace discrimination. Multiple sources have said the Labor and Justice Departments have cleared the measure and it was awaiting action at the White House.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • His decision is very disappointing considering the overwhelming support that the lgbt community has given our president, and in a election year this is not good news, I can only hope he changes his mind so I don’t have to change mine, the hate and lies spewing from the extreme right is just wrong, we don’t ask for any special treatment, only equal treatment as American citizens, voting American citizens.

  • I am proud to have Jeff Merkley as my Senator. He is one the hardest working Senators “for the people” in office!
    Thank you, Senator Merkley

  • No a wise move on Obama’s part. He has an election and needs the woman and gay vote. This is something that could push more gays and women to actually show up to the polls!

  • This decision is rational politics and the timing is wrong for an executive order. Obama is a great friend and will likely take care of us after the election but he has to get re-elected first. Romney is the only other choice – get serious! Would you support him instead? That would be foolish.

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