President Obama urged congressional Republicans to back the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in a blog posted to The Huffington Post late Sunday night, arguing that laws in some states that allow individuals to be fired based on their sexual orientation were “offensive” and “wrong.”
Declaring that the nation was at “a turning point,” Obama wrote that “Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done.”
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the ENDA bill, and the upper chamber is expected to vote on it Monday. It will be the first vote on the bill since 1996, when it failed by a single vote.
At least four Republicans — co-sponsors Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.), as well as Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have indicated a willingness to support the legislation. Gay rights activists hope that at least one additional Republican backs the legislation, pushing the bill past the 60-vote threshold necessary for passage.
But some swing Republicans have voiced concern with how the bill exempts religious organizations, leaving in doubt whether Senate Democrats would be able to corral enough votes. The legislation faces a steeper climb in the GOP-controlled House.
In his essay, the president looked to play to the traditional alignment of Republicans with the business community, arguing the law would “make good economic sense” because it allowed companies to “attract and retain the best workers.”
“If we want to create more jobs and economic growth and keep our country competitive in the global economy, we need everyone working hard, contributing their ideas, and putting their abilities to use doing what they do best,” Obama said. “We need to harness the creativity and talents of every American.”
Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney sidestepped questions about whether the president would consider an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination if the legislation was unable to secure passage in the House or Senate.
“I think that what I would say is that we have long believed that legislation, an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that would enshrine these protections into law is the right way to go,” Carney said.