WASHINGTON - Rejecting pressure from gay rights activists, President Obama will not issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis on sexual orientation, his spokesman said Thursday.
Obama "is committed to securing equal rights" for gays and lesbians, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, but for now he will pursue a slower path on the issue.
He said Obama would push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide broader protection. "The approach we're taking at this time is to try to build support for passage of this legislation, a comprehensive approach to legislate on the issue of nondiscrimination," he said.
The news outraged some activists, who have taken up the issue as a major priority in the wake of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" -- the law that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. With Republicans in control of the House, an anti-discrimination law is unlikely to pass.
"This is a political calculation that cannot stand," said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, an advocacy group. "White House staffers and lawyers have let politics stand in the way of a basic American value -- that a solid day's work deserves a solid day's pay, regardless of the color of your skin, your place of worship, your gender, or who you love."
Carney said the strategy was "similar to" the one it chose on military service and suggested the issue did not yet have sufficient congressional support.
TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE