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Democratic Support Grows For Obama To Sign ENDA Executive Order

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Many congressional Democrats would like Obama to sign an executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT people amongst federal contractors. (Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)
Many congressional Democrats would like Obama to sign an executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT people amongst federal contractors. (Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)

UPDATE: 3/21/14 -- The final letter, viewable here, has 220 signatures (168 in the House and 52 in the Senate). Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) also wanted to sign on but did not make the deadline before the letter was sent out.

WASHINGTON -- Earlier this week, nearly 200 lawmakers signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to use executive authority to ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors.

It’s legal in 33 states to fire or harass someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. And in the absence of congressional action, a growing number of lawmakers are looking for the president to take action on the issue.

Not a single Republican in the House or Senate signed the letter to Obama, organized by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), along with the LGBT Equality Caucus in the House. More surprisingly, there were also 58 Democrats who didn't sign (including one independent senator who caucuses with the party).

The Huffington Post reached out to all of those members -- including many who have cosponsored broader legislation to ban LGBT workplace discrimination nationwide -- to see why they weren’t part of the effort.

It turns out there's even more support among Democrats for executive action than the letter suggests. Twenty-eight lawmakers who didn't sign the letter said they agree it’s time for Obama to act. Many said they either didn’t know about the letter earlier, or missed the deadline to sign.

Based on HuffPost’s tally, there are now 52 senators and 172 voting members of the House Democratic caucus calling on Obama to take action, leaving three senators and 27 House members not on board.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), also chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, isn’t on the letter because of her allegiance to the president’s position, given her role as the party’s leader. She has signaled that she supports the idea, though.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also are not signatories. Their offices said they traditionally don't sign these types of letters because of their leadership posts. Pelosi has said, however, that she supports Obama using his executive authority to extend workplace protections. Reid has said he would support it if the president decided to do it.

For other Democrats who declined to sign, most said they wholeheartedly support passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress, but don't believe that Obama pursuing the issue through his executive authority is the best course.

ENDA is more comprehensive than a potential executive order and would bar workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at all companies with at least 15 employees. While the Senate passed the legislation in November, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not indicated willingness to bring it up for a vote.

Scott Ogden, spokesman for Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), said, “[L]ike President Obama, Senator King thinks the best way to end it is for Congress to listen to the American people, do its job, and move the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act through the legislative process before considering executive action. All Americans deserve permanent and comprehensive protection from discrimination, and that’s why Senator King was a proud cosponsor of ENDA. In fact, with his support, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation last year. He thinks it’s far past time for the House to do the same.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated Wednesday that Congress needs to take the lead on the issue, not Obama.

“We continue to support ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and I don’t have any update for you on proposed or possible executive orders,” Carney said during his daily briefing, when asked about the letter from lawmakers. “The fact is that legislation which has moved in the Senate, if it were to be passed by the full Congress and signed into law, would have the greatest benefit when it comes to ensuring the rights of LGBT individuals.”

Besides King and Reid, Joe Manchin (W.Va.) is the other Democratic senator who has not signed the letter, although he backs ENDA.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who jumped on board Thursday, told HuffPost, "No one should lose his or her job because of who that person loves. Although this letter was sent to President Obama before I was able to add my name, I am sending my own letter to the President on this subject. Federal contractors should not be permitted to discriminate against LGBT employees, and an Executive Order from the President would provide an immediate solution to such discrimination.”

At least one Democrat’s office avoided weighing in on the issue altogether.

“We are declining comment at this time,” said Celina Weatherwax, a spokeswoman for Rep. Peter Visclosky (Ind.).

Commenting on the growing number of Democrats who back an executive order, Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign -- a group that has repeatedly called on Obama to take action -- said, "We’re pleased that so many leaders have spoken out about this critical issue and HRC is proud to have encouraged them to do so."

Merkley has an online petition on CREDO, with nearly 100,000 signatories so far saying they would like to see Obama act on the issue.

HuffPost Readers: Have you been fired, harassed or discriminated against at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity? If you're open to sharing your story, please email us at openreporting@huffingtonpost.com, or call us at 860-348-3376 and leave a voicemail describing your experience.

This article has been updated to include additional responses.

Below is the list of lawmakers who back the executive order, with members who have been added since Tuesday denoted by an asterisk.

Senate supporters (51 Democrats and one independent):
Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.)*, Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Al Franken (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.)*, Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.)*, Jack Reed (R.I.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Tom Udall (N.M.), John Walsh (Mont.)*, Mark Warner (Va.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Ron Wyden (Ore.)

House supporters (170 Democratic voting members):
Ron Barber (Ariz.), Karen Bass (Calif.), Joyce Beatty (Ohio), Xavier Becerra (Calif.)*, Ami Bera (Calif.), Timothy Bishop (N.Y.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.)*, Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.), Robert Brady (Pa.), Bruce Braley (Iowa), Corrine Brown (Fla.)*, Julie Brownley (Calif.), Lois Capps (Calif.), Michael Capuano (Mass.), Tony Cardenas (Calif.), John Carney (Del.)*, Andre Carson (Ind.), Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Kathy Castor (Fla.), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Judy Chu (Calif.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Katherine Clark (Mass.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.)*, James Clyburn (S.C.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Gerald Connolly (Va.), John Conyers (Mich.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.)*, Joe Courtney (Conn.), Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Elijah Cummings (Md.)*, Danny Davis (Ill.)*, Susan Davis (Calif.), Pete DeFazio (Ore.)*, Diana DeGette (Colo.), John Delaney (Md.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Theodore Deutch (Fla.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Michael Doyle (Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Donna Edwards (Md.)*, Keith Ellison (Minn.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), Sam Farr (Calif.), Chaka Fattah (Pa.), Bill Foster (Ill.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), John Garamendi (Calif.)*, Joe Garcia (Fla.), Alan Grayson (Fla.), Al Green (Texas), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Janice Hahn (Calif.), Colleen Hanabusa (Hawaii), Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Denny Heck (Wash.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), James Himes (Conn.), Ruben Hinojosa (Texas), Rush Holt (N.J.), Mike Honda (Calif.), Steven Horsford (Nev.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Hank Johnson Jr. (Ga.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio)*, William Keating (Mass.), Joseph Kennedy III (Mass.), Dan Kildee (Mich.), Derek Kilmer (Wash.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.)*, Ann Kuster (N.H.), James Langevin (R.I.), Rick Larsen (Wash.), John Larson (Conn.)*, Barbara Lee (Calif.), Sander Levin (Mich.), John Lewis (Ga.), David Loebsack (Iowa), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.)*, Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Doris Matsui (Calif.)*, Betty McCollum (Minn.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), James McGovern (Mass.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Michael Michaud (Maine), George Miller (Calif.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), James Moran (Va.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), Richard Neal (Mass.)*, Rick Nolan (Minn.), Beto O'Rourke (Texas), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.), Donald Payne Jr. (N.J.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Scott Peters (Calif.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Jared Polis (Colo.), David Price (N.C.), Mike Quigley (Ill.), Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), Raul Ruiz (Calif.)*, Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.)*, Bobby Rush (Ill.), Tim Ryan (Ohio)*, Linda Sanchez (Calif.), Loretta Sanchez (Calif.), John Sarbanes (Md.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Brad Schneider (Ill.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Bobby Scott (Va.), David Scott (Ga.)*, Jose Serrano (N.Y.), Terri Sewell (Ala.)*, Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Albio Sires (N.J.), Louse Slaughter (N.Y.), Adam Smith (Wash.), Jackie Speier (Calif.), Eric Swalwell (Calif.), Mark Takano (Calif.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), John Tierney (Mass.), Dina Titus (Nev.), Paul Tonko (N.Y.), Niki Tsongas (Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Juan Vargas (Calif.), Marc Veasey (Texas), Filemon Vela (Texas), Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.), Timothy Walz (Minn.), Maxine Waters (Calif.),* Henry Waxman (Calif.), Pete Welch (Vt.), Frederica Wilson (Fla.), John Yarmuth (Ky.)

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