WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama won't wait for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and will instead sign an executive order banning discrimination against gay federal workers.
LGBT groups have unsuccessfully pushed Congress and the White House to pass some version of ENDA for years, and said Monday they were thrilled at the administration's decision to move ahead with at least protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender federal employees.
"Today, millions of Americans in most states in the country go to work every day knowing they could lose their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love," the administration said in a memo from the White House. An executive order "would build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the sponsor of the ENDA legislation that passed the Senate last year, cheered the president's announcement.
"With this announcement, the arc of history bends a little farther toward justice," Merkley said. "Most Americans don't know that it's still legal in many states to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's because it not only defies common sense, it goes wholly against who we are as a nation."
But while the bill passed the Senate 64-32, it has since been ignored by the House.
"No more excuses," Merkley said. "It's way past time for Speaker [John] Boehner to allow ENDA to have a vote in the House. No one should be fired because of who they are or whom they love."