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.