A White House spokesperson on Tuesday expressed President Barack Obama’s support for legislationy [press briefing] that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity through an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The legislation had been under consideration for several weeks, and the White House had not been prepared to endorse it [press briefing] when it came under review in early October. The bill was introduced in July by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. David N. Cicilline and is unlikely to proceed through Congress [WP report].
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. In July 2014 Obama signed an executive order [text] barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity [JURIST report] but, despite pressure, did not include any exemptions for religious organizations. In November 2013 the US Senate approved [JURIST report] the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [text], a bill outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, by a vote of 64 to 32, but it has made no progress in the House of Representatives. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) [official website] in July 2013 approved a version [JURIST report] of ENDA. And in January 2013 the Virginia Senate initially approved legislation [JURIST report] that would prohibit the state government from discriminating against its employees based on sexual orientation. HELP held a hearing [JURIST report] in June 2012 regarding ENDA, focusing on discrimination faced by LGBT employees across the country. Earlier that month JURIST Guest Columnist Brynne Madway argued [JURIST op-ed] that the LGBT community must shift some of its focus to promoting anti-discrimination laws, noting that only a small number of states have nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity and sexual orientation.