Biden: ‘No downside’ to executive action on LGBT workplace rights

Vice President Biden said he didn't see "any downside" to President Obama signing an executive order banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers employed by federal contractors.

"I don't see any downside," Biden told the Huffington Post, adding that "the way to do this is to pass ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act]. That ends it everywhere."

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The White House has routinely sidestepped questions on the issue, saying they preferred Congress to pass legislation that would prevent similar discrimination for all workers.

Biden echoed that position, telling the website that Obama did not "have the ability to ban" all workplace discrimination unilaterally, but said he was "still hopeful" the House could move on a bill.

But acknowledging no "downside" to an executive order could raise questions for the administration.

Earlier this month, press secretary Jay Carney refused to comment "on speculated-about executive orders."

"I just don’t speculate about potential executive orders," Carney said. "What we know concretely is that Congress has taken up legislation that this President strongly supports that would ensure the rights of millions and millions of Americans and that is I think clearly the right thing to do. So we urged the House to take action."

The Senate has passed a bill that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexuality, but House Republicans have blocked a vote, saying it is redundant and would cost jobs by creating frivolous litigation. 

The vice president memorably voiced his support for same-sex marriage during a "Meet the Press" interview in May 2012, before President Obama had publicly declared his support for gay marriage.

The White House has acknowledged that Biden's comments sped up their timeline for the president's announcement on the issue.

 

- This story was updated at 6:37 p.m.

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