By Brody Levesque | Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (D), sent a letter signed by nearly 200 Senators and Representatives to President Obama Tuesday calling on him to issue an executive order banning contractors from receiving federal government contracts unless they have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“All Americans deserve fairness in the workplace,” Merkley said in a statement Tuesday.
“There is no reason to wait any longer to extend non-discrimination policies to federal contractors and protect millions of Americans from being fired for who they are or who they love.”
Included in Tuesday's letter for the first time was senior Democratic House leaders, the House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has publicly supported an executive order, however she didn't sign the letter. Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill told LGBTQ Nation that the Minority leader would send a private communique to the White House urging Obama to consider an executive order.
Last year lawmakers had also sent a letter to Obama signed by 110 House members and by 37 senators.
Executive orders banning various types of discrimination by federal contractors have been on the books since 1941, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the first such order. Federal contractors have been banned since 1965 from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Although the current Employment Non-Discrimination Act, sponsored by Merkley, passed the Senate last year, it doesn't appear to be going anywhere in the House as Speaker John Boehner has steadfastly refused to bring the ENDA measure forward for consideration citing the possibility that it would put a financial burden on businesses.
"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
The president has the ability to ban discrimination among government contractors only, whereas legislation passed by Congress would apply to all employers.