November 12, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Will Obama act if House doesn’t pass ENDA?
Jay Carney, White House, gay news, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t say Monday whether President Obama would sign an ENDA executive order. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t say Tuesday whether President Obama would sign an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination if the House doesn’t act on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, emphasizing instead Congress should pass the bill.

In response to a question from Sirius XM’s Jared Rizzi on the directive, which would ban LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors, Carney talked ENDA and said arguments against the legislation have been used against civil rights bills in the past.

“We believe very strongly…that the time to pass that legislation has come,” Carney said. “Those who oppose passage of ENDA in the House and throw up a lot of reasons why, the reasons they cite are reasons that we’ve heard in the past in opposition to seminal civil rights legislation. Those who opposed previous civil rights legislation were wrong, and history has proved them, and those who oppose passage of ENDA are wrong and history will prove them wrong.”

The questioning comes in the wake of Senate passage on Thursday of ENDA, which would ban many private and public employers from discriminating against LGBT employees, as attention has turned to the House on taking up the bill. Although some advocates say the bill has ample support in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated he opposes the bill.

Following the Senate passage of ENDA, LGBT advocates have ramped up their calls for Obama to issue an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination for federal contractors, which he has withheld despite repeated calls for him to act.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said the White House shouldn’t use the House as an excuse to continue to refuse to sign the executive order.

“The White House should stop hiding behind opposition in the House of Representatives when the president holds the clear legal authority to enact LGBT workplace protections in millions of American workplaces,” Almeida said. “President Obama made a campaign promise five years ago to take executive action to stop taxpayer money from being squandered on harassment and discrimination against LGBT Americans, and that promise is long overdue. The president should sign the order right away.”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said there’s no reason why the administration can’t pursue legislation and sign an executive order at the same time.

“Senate Republicans, many of them conservative, showed that there’s a positive path forward for ENDA,” Sainz said. “We believe that if the speaker allowed the bill to come to the House floor it would be successful. This is an ‘and’ question, not an ‘or’ question. We need both: for the House to pass ENDA and for the president to sign the order.”

A transcript follows:

Sirius XM: If the House doesn’t take up and pass ENDA, is the President going to sign the executive order?

Carney: We believe very strongly — I appreciate that question — that the time to pass that legislation has come. Those who oppose passage of ENDA in the House and throw up a lot of reasons why, the reasons they cite are reason that we’ve heard in the past in opposition to seminal civil rights legislation. Those who opposed previously civil rights legislation were wrong, and history has proved them, and those who oppose passage of ENDA are wrong and history will prove them wrong.

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

2 Comments
  • Growing up we learned that "Americans are free to choose the kinds of work they want to do." Hard work paid off. Like truth and justice it was the American Way. This fairy tale has an ugly side to it. Once upon a time our government actively sought out gays and Lesbians for termination considering them unfit for employment. The story is worth remembering.
    http://wp.me/p2qifI-1N4

  • Boehner opposes it, but doesn’t have enough support to guarantee an outcome. Right now, he is being pressured to let it come to a vote. If the President takes unilateral action right now, Boehner will use the unilateral aspect of that as leverage and exercise his authority not to bring ENDA to a vote. This is basic politics. Demanding action right now with total ignorance of the political environment is a recipe for failure. I am glad that Obama isn’t jeopardizing ENDA by playing his hand too soon with a more temporary measure.

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