By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com January 30 2014 2:32 PM ET
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has no likelihood of passing this year, says John Boehner.
The House speaker told the LGBT Equality Caucus that there was “no way” ENDA would pass, during his first-ever meeting with the group of lawmakers last week.
Rep. Mark Takano, a gay congressman and cochair of the caucus, related the exchange Tuesday to the Washington Blade after President Obama’s State of the Union address.
“A number of us did meet with, actually the caucus met with Speaker Boehner,” Takano said. “He said no way was it going to get done in this session.”
However, Takano classified the conference between the Republican speaker and the caucus, a group of over 100 lawmakers seeking LGBT equality, as “a historic sort of meeting.”
Boehner’s remarks reveal that he will most likely not schedule ENDA, which would provide antidiscrimination protections for LGBT workers nationwide, for a vote on the House floor in 2014. Last April the act had easily passed in the Senate with a vote of 64-32. But in November Boehner voiced his belief that ENDA was “unnecessary.”
“I am opposed to discrimination of any kind in the workplace or anyplace else, but I think this legislation … is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits,” he said in a press conference that month. “People are already protected in the workplace.”
Many LGBT activists and organizations have expressed disappointment that Obama had not announced direct action in his Tuesday address. The president has the power to issue an executive order that would offer the protections of ENDA to federal contractors, a group comprising roughly 20 percent of the American workforce. He had promised to make such an executive order during his 2008 presidential campaign.
In an op-ed for The Advocate titled “Mr. President, We Need More Than Speeches,” GetEQUAL codirectors Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez and Heather Cronk argued that Obama needs to lead by example and fulfill his 2008 vow.
“It is clear that the president wants to make LGBTQ issues part of his legacy,” they wrote. “But the fact that his administration invited Jason Collins, an openly gay NBA player, to watch the State of Union from the First Lady’s box doesn’t change the fact that millions of LGBTQ workers are depending on President Obama to do more than just give speeches... Mr. President, it’s time to pick up your pen and get the job done.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, echoed this belief in a statement released by the LGBT nonprofit, which argued that the “President’s message tonight failed to address the needs of LGBT workers looking for a fair shake in this economy.”
“Not only was there no call for the House to pass a federal law to protect LGBT workers nationwide, President Obama also sidestepped his commitment to take action where Congress has left off, leaving out an order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors,” Griffin continued. “Unfortunately, President Obama missed a real opportunity to use the State of the Union to improve the lives of LGBT people by taking immediate executive action to address anti-LGBT discrimination for the millions of Americans employed by federal contractors.”
In the United States, protections for LGBT workers vary state by state. Workplaces may still discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states. They may also discriminate on the basis of gender identity in 33 states.