White House rallies behind ENDA bill

The White House continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) even after gay rights and civil liberties organizations abandoned the legislation over concerns stemming from the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision earlier this month.

"We continue to believe that Congress needs to pass federal legislation that protects LGBT Americans from employment discrimination," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday. "The president has talked often about his opposition to any sorts of policies or views that discriminate against individuals because of who they are or the color of their skin, their name, or whom they love."

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Earlier this week, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders said they would no longer support the legislation, which has wound through Congress for the better part of two decades. 

The groups say they're concerned the religious exemption included in ENDA could be exploited by employers to discriminate against LGBT individuals. They say that if the law was interpreted as it was in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed certain companies to opt out of paying for birth control coverage in their healthcare plans, then hospitals, nursing homes and universities could institutionalize discrimination.

The legislation already appeared to have stalled in the House, and earlier this year the president announced he would draft and sign an executive order barring federal contractors from LGBT discrimination since it did not appear lawmakers would move on a bill. 

"The prospects for passing it through the House are not very good," Earnest said, adding the bill had "hit a dead end."

But the opposition from the civil and gay rights organizations seemed to be the final nail in ENDA's coffin.

Earnest would not say whether the executive order being drafted by the White House to apply to federal contractors would include a religious exemption.

"I'm not prepared at this point to talk about any of the contents of any executive order the president may sign," Earnest said.

Top Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), have called the bill redundant and warned it would cost jobs by creating frivolous litigation.