NC Congressman Robert Pittenger responds to ENDA controversy

Published: Sep. 25, 2014 at 11:29 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2014 at 11:29 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina RepresentatIve Robert Pittenger found himself caught up in a firestorm of controversy Thursday over remarks he denies making.

Gay rights activists delivered a petition with 30,000 signatures to Pittenger Thursday morning.

They grew upset when media outlets began reporting that the Congressman may have said it's a company's right to fire gay people after an impromptu interview with a writer from a liberal blog that took place about a month ago.

Pittenger is not recorded saying that, and he denies it. Pittenger's reps say his words were twisted.

What he claims he said then, and what he'll say today - he is against the ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act - legislation proposed in Congress that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation by employers with at least 15 employees.

It's been introduced in practically every Congress since the early 1990s and never passed. Most critics say that's because the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies already have plans in place to prevent discrimination, and they're against big government.

But, the ENDA's recurring defeat means there is no federal law protecting gays in the workplace, and while some states have enacted their own legislation, residents in about half the country are at risk for being fired or turned down for a job for being gay.

North Carolina is one of them.

Which is one concrete reason LGBT supporters are angry at Pittenger and other officials today.

"We don't have protections in North Carolina," said one man carrying a petition. "A lot of states don't have protections. But 70% of North Carolinians believe that there is protections already in place, which makes it harder for us to get them."

Pittenger gave WBTV this statement:

"Today, local activists presented 30,000 petitions of which only 146 were residents of North Carolina's 9th Congressional District who disagree with my stance on a specific piece of legislation. The free exchange of ideas and opinions is part of what makes America the greatest country in the world, and I appreciate each member of the community who takes the time to get involved, even if we don't always agree."

"The statutes are clear, that Americans are well protected already. We should fully enforce current laws against discrimination. I hear America's cry for more jobs and a stronger economy, not more federal regulations added to the vast maze of federal regulations we have already. That can only stifle the ability of entrepreneurs to create new businesses and new jobs. It's incredibly hard to operate or start a business already, and I don't think America is begging for more obstacles to an economic recovery. Where does it stop? Is the next regulation going to prohibit a layoff even during an economic downturn? Will the next law mandate full employment? Where does the government's role in dictating our daily lives end? That's the debate we should be having."

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