Merkley criticizes White House for inaction on ENDA stopgap

Jeff Merkley CHRIS JOHNSON [e]Washington Blade[m]

WASHINGTON — 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.

Jeff Merkley

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.

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