The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has passed the Senate and is stuck in the Republican-controlled House. But there's something President Barack Obama could do to extend workplace protections to LGBT people. Just as Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, he could sign an executive order extending ENDA's protections to federal contractors. A letter now signed by 47 senators and 148 members of the House, all Democrats plus one Bernie Sanders, asks Obama to "fulfill the promise in your State of the Union address to make this a 'year of action' and build upon the momentum of 2013" by signing such an order.
Obama has said he'd prefer for Congress to pass ENDA, but the letter, circulated by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Harkin and the House LGBT Equality Caucus, makes clear that it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition:
As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protection millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get ENDA to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step. This executive order would provide LGBT people with another avenue in the federal government they could turn to if they were the victim of employment discrimination by a federal contractor.Even if Obama signed an employment non-discrimination order tomorrow, it would still be important for the House to pass ENDA to protect the millions of workers who don't live in states that ban workplace discrimination and don't work for the federal government. But signing the order is something that doesn't rely on John Boehner to either do the right thing or fold to political pressure, and the president should do it as soon as possible.