Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa called on President Obama once again to sign an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors. Activists have pressured the White House on the issue for much of this year, because getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed in Congress is nearly impossible with Republicans in control of the House, but the Obama administration has steadfastly rebuffed pleas to sign the order.

"Absolutely, he should [sign the order]," Harkin said on my SiriusXM OutQ radio program at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last week. "A number of us have written him a letters about this, that he should sign it. I mean, federal contractors, people who contract with the federal government, and use taxpayer money, should not be allowed to discriminated on the basis of sexual preference or sexual orientation. So, I think the president should sign that. And we're going to continue to put the pressure on him to do so."

Harkin, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has spearheaded the effort to get ENDA passed, having held hearings in the Senate back in June.

"I'm not going to give up on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act," he said. "It's a civil rights issue. I know we can't get it this year because of Republican opposition, but I'll be there next year. We'll have Barack Obama as president. I believe we'll still have a majority in the Senate and I'm going to continue to bring it up. We're not going to sit back on it. And quite frankly, I think we have a lot of employers in this country that would like to see something like this pass. Right now, a lot of employers are caught in a crossfire on this. If they have ENDA, it frees them up. All I can tell you is, we're not giving up."

On marriage equality, on which his state of Iowa has led the way, Harkin said it was only matter of time before it came to every state.

"Look," he said, "marriage equality is really the civil rights issue of our time and that time has come. I think more and more people are saying, 'Yes, time to put that behind us.' We did that in Iowa. Yeah, there's always some who want to turn the clock back. Heck, I bet you can find people today who would like to to turn back the Civil Rights Act of the 1965. They want to get rid of the Voting Rights Act. There's always people like that. but I think the great bulk of Americans would just as soon say, 'That's history, we're beyond that.'"

Listen to the full interview:

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    Since November 12, 2008

  • Delaware

    Gay marriage law <a href="" target="_blank">enacted</a>, weddings to begin July 1.

  • Iowa

    Since April 3, 2009

  • Maine

    In 2012, Maine voted in favor of a ballot amendment to legalize gay marriage.

  • Maryland

    The gay marriage bill was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on March 1, 2012. Opponents later gathered enough signatures to force the issue back onto the ballot in November 2012, but voters rejected the effort against gay marriage.

  • Massachusetts

    Since May 17, 2004

  • Minnesota

    Same-sex marriage bill signed into law in May. Gay marriages will begin in August.

  • New Hampshire

    Since January 1, 2010

  • New York

    Since July 24, 2011

  • Rhode Island

    Bill passed in May. Law takes effect on August 1, 2013.

  • Vermont

    Since September 1, 2009

  • Washington

    On February 13, 2012, Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signed a law allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies to begin on June 7, 2012. The process was delayed by gay marriage opponents who gathered enough signatures to put the issue up to a state vote in November 2012. They voted to approve it on Election Day.

  • Washington D.C.

    Since March 9, 2010

  • California

    The state initially began conducting gay marriages on June 16, 2008. On November 5, 2008, however, California voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state's constitution to declare marriage as only between a man and a woman. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled against that law, and the state shortly thereafter began sanctioning same-sex nuptials.