Pressure Mounting for ENDA Executive Order

Pressure is increasing from liberal voices for President Obama to issue an executive order similar to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R.1755/S.815), commonly referred to as ENDA. While ENDA faces hurdles in Congress, not the least of which are concerns over its effect on religious freedom, recent opinion pieces in The Washington Post and The New York Times, among other publications, have been pushing the White House to act on its own.

In his Washington Post article, Jeffrey Marburg-Goodman, a 2008 Obama campaign advisor and then a presidential appointee in the U.S. Agency for International Development, highlighted an executive order by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 that prohibited discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” by federal contractors.  Marburg-Goodman declared, “With a stroke of his pen, and without congressional approval, Obama could expand the 1965 executive order again, this time to cover LGBT Americans.”

The New York Times Editorial Board opined on May 10:

Congress has a duty to stop dawdling and approve a strong bill. In the meantime, President Obama, a supporter of ENDA, can take a significant step toward ending discrimination in the workplace by issuing an executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. He has the power to protect millions of American workers, and it is about time he used it.

Notably, the Editorial Board recognized that that there is opposition based on religious freedom, but they rejected that concern and asserted, “Actually, the proposed religious exemption is far too broad and needs to be scaled back.”

NRB has repeatedly insisted that ENDA would harm the constitutional rights of faith-based organizations and lead to a “chilling effect” in religious communities.  Earlier this month, NRB Senior Vice President & General Counsel Craig Parshall declared, “The current version of ENDA contains the same convoluted, so-called religious exemption language, as in prior years, and that language is an open invitation for endless litigation and paltry protection for religious employers.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: May 24, 2013