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Worthy speculation: Will Joe Biden prompt LGBT employment non-discrimination?

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Joe Biden has told Huffington Post reporter, Jennifer Bendery, that he sees "no downside" to an executive order on LGBT employment protections.

Take a look at the Huffington Post report:

Vice President Joe Biden says he doesn't see any reason why the president shouldn't use his executive authority to ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors. But he said the better solution would be for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have broader implications.

"I don't see any downside," Biden said in an interview with The Huffington Post, when asked about President Barack Obama's reluctance to take executive action on the issue. "The way to do this is to pass ENDA. That ends it everywhere."

The fact that Biden couldn't point to any negative consequences of executive action may be a small win for LGBT rights groups, who are largely puzzled by the White House's refusal to act. President Barack Obama made a campaign promise in 2008 to take executive action on LGBT job discrimination, but nothing has happened since. When the issue comes up in White House briefings, the press secretary says Congress needs to take the lead, since legislation would go further than an executive order. If Congress passed ENDA, it would make it illegal nationwide to fire or harass someone at work for being LGBT. In contrast, an executive order would only apply to federal contractors.

Biden's statement has prompted speculation about the President's next act for employment non-discrimination. It was two years ago when Vice President Biden spoke up about marriage equality in a public forum. His statement was quickly followed by President Obama's own statement of support for marriage equality. Could that be what is happening here? Many in the LGBT media are wondering.

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade wondered the same thing, and asked several LGBT leaders for their take on the statement and what it might mean next.

Richard Socarides, a New York-based gay advocate, was among those wondering if Biden’s latest remarks would be a catalyst for Obama to take action.

“It’s hard to know what the delay is,” Socarides said. “Maybe Biden’s remarks will help. But at this point, it’s hard to know.”

After all, when Biden appeared to endorse marriage equality in April 2012 on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama concluded his evolution on the issue himself just three days later in a TV interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage.

John Aravosis, editor of AMERICAblog, said Biden has proved to be a bellweather on LGBT issues before and “so perhaps this is a sign that the administration is finally moving in that direction.”

“It’s also possibly a sign that Biden is being Biden and saying something out of school,” Aravosis said. “I think we always need more fuel — clearly, the administration hasn’t done the executive order, and until they do, we need more fuel.”

The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether Biden’s words mark any change in position for the administration. During periodic requests for comment on the issue during news briefings, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has said the White House prefers a legislative approach to addressing the issue of LGBT workplace protections.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, religion, sex, and national origin. The ENDA bill introduced in congress would extend this law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, making it illegal to refuse to hire or promote, fire, or harass an employee based on these qualities.

For more information, and to hear discussion on ENDA, visit www.glaad.org/enda

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