White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday criticized Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, likening his stance to resistance to other civil rights measures in the past.
“I noted and others here noted Speaker Boehner's comments with regret,” Carney told reporters. “His reasoning behind the position he took sounds familiar to the opposition to all, almost all civil rights measures that have come and been passed into law in this country over the years.”
“The opposition was wrong then and it is wrong now,” Carney added.
The White House is pressing Congress to pass the bill, which would establish new workplace protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered people. Supporters say it will help prevent people from being fired because of their sexual orientation. But critics of the bill say it could unfairly discriminate against some religious groups and could subject businesses to a new wave of costly lawsuits.
In an op-ed on the Huffington Post Monday, President Obama urged Republicans to rally behind the bill.
“Millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are,” Obama wrote.
“It's offensive. It's wrong,” he added. “And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.”
The Senate could vote on the measure Monday, but it is unclear if it has 60-votes needed to move forward.
Boehner on Monday, though, indicated that the House would not take up the bill.
“The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost Americans jobs, especially small business jobs,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel in a statement.
Carney on Monday declined to say if the White House would turn to an executive order if ENDA failed to pass Congress, saying their preference was for lawmakers to act.
“The preferred and better path is through Congress because that would be inclusive,” said Carney. “An executive order that covers federal contracts would not be inclusive.”
“We’re focused on getting ENDA through Congress,” he added. “We’re going to keep pressing ahead.”