By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- The one characteristic of Vice-President Joe Biden that can be counted on is his ability to be one step ahead of his boss on LGBTQ rights. In an interview published Wednesday, Biden tells the Huffington Post that the time is now to move ahead on an Executive order that would ban anti-gay discrimination in the workplace by federal contractors. If the president were to sign an executive order banning LGBT workplace discrimination, it would protect as many as 16 million federal employees.
"I don't see any downside," Biden said when asked about President Barack Obama's reluctance to take executive action on the issue. "The way to do this is to pass ENDA. That ends it everywhere."
However Biden did point out that in his opinion there was a better solution which was to have action on legislation currently pending on Capitol Hill.
The Senate has passed the most recent version of ENDA last year but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is refusing to bring it to the House floor for a vote. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was first introduced in 1974, but lawmakers have failed to pass versions of the bill since then.
Currently twenty-nine states lack any form of workplace protections against discrimination for gay and lesbian employees, and four additional states allow employers to terminate employees based on gender identity as well.
LGBTQ Advocacy groups have long pushed the Obama administration for an executive order, pointing out that as a candidate running in 2008 he had promised action on the issue but has since refused. Presidential spokesperson Jay Carney has consistently declined to answer questions regarding the president's inaction on ENDA when pressed, instead only acknowledging that the issue is under review.
Biden was asked to explain why Obama won't use his authority to ban workplace discrimination, particularly given the president's stance on LGBT rights.
"He doesn't have the ability to ban it," the vice president said, calling ENDA "the single best, most significant way to do this. I'm still hopeful."
The LGBT advocacy groups argue that even an Executive order would be more suitable than inaction on the part of the administration.
It’s not the first time the vice president has gotten out in front of Obama on issues related to LGBT equality. In May of 2012, Biden endorsed same-sex marriage, which was then followed several days later by Obama stating his support for allowing same-sex couples to be legally wed.