Gay rights activists can’t take the pressure off Congress to pass sweeping nondiscrimination legislation despite an executive order that will ban federal contractors from firing LGBT employees based on sexual orientation, President Obama said Tuesday.

Speaking at an LGBT gala in New York City hosted by the Democratic National Committee, Obama bemoaned a “pattern these days” by which “everyone has given up” on Congress to pass legislation, and instead expect him to act unilaterally.

ADVERTISEMENT
But Obama said executive orders he could take “doesn’t reach everybody that needs to be reached.”

“Congress needs to start working again… let’s make sure we keep the pressure up there,” Obama said.

On Monday, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest announced the White House was drafting an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

Obama had for months resisted calls from gay rights groups to draft such an order, with White House aides saying the president wanted Congress to pass legislation extending antidiscrimination protections to all American workers. But after passing the Senate in November, legislation saw little progress in the Republican-controlled House.

“Shockingly enough, the House refused to act,” Obama said Tuesday, noting Congress had been “considering legislation to protect LGBT workers for decades.”

Top Republicans, including House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE (R-Ohio), have called the bill redundant and warned it would cost jobs by creating frivolous litigation. 

But Obama blasted resistance to protections as “not right.”

“In the United States, who you are and who you love shouldn’t be a fireable offense,” he said.

The president said broadly that gay rights activists had “some pretty good reasons to celebrate,” noting that 19 states now allowed gay marriage and that the Senate on Tuesday had approved a pair of openly gay federal judges.

“But that doesn’t mean we can grow complacent,” Obama said.