October 28, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Does Obama see ENDA as part of jobs issue?

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to directly answer whether the Obama administration sees the lack of federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers as a jobs issue.

Asked by the Washington Blade on Thursday whether the lack of such protections is a part of the larger employment problem facing the country, Carney said Obama believes LGBT people “should absolutely not be discriminated against with regards to jobs or anything else,” but he noted that unemployment and slow growth affects all Americans.

“There is a broad problem that affects all Americans, and that is 9.1 percent unemployment and 2.5 percent GDP growth, which is good but not nearly good enough,” Carney said. “So he is focused on doing what he can to take measures that will help the economy grow and create jobs.

LGBT Americans face unique problems with job security because no federal laws exist barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Discriminating against workers — or even firing them — is legal on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states and on the basis of gender identity in 35 states.

Obama supports legislation known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but the legislation didn’t pass in the last Congress when Democrats held majorities in both chambers. The bill is unlikely to pass as long as Republicans remain in control of the House.

Meanwhile, President Obama has called on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act — a $450 billion economic stimulus package — to increase the job opportunities available for Americans, and has toured the country to encourage lawmakers to act on the legislation. The bill has a variety of components, but none that address workplace discrimination against LGBT people.

Asked why the issue isn’t addressed in the American Jobs Act or why the president hasn’t mentioned it in his campaign for the bill, Carney similarly side-stepped the inquiry and reiterated the importance of the unemployment issue.

“The president is out there making the case about jobs broadly every day — much, apparently, to the annoyance of some folks in Congress, but he will keep doing it,” Carney said. “And he will keep doing it unless and until every American who’s looking for a job gets one. And if that doesn’t happen, then you’ll continue to hear him talking about it.”

LGBT advocates have been pushing for an executive order prohibiting federal money from going to contractors and suppliers that don’t have their own non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Obama administration hasn’t whether it will issue the order.

The transcript of the exchange between the Washington Blade and Carney follows:

Washington Blade: Amid all this talk about jobs, LGBT Americans are particularly concerned about their own job security because of the lack of federal non-discrimination protections. Right now, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay in 29 states, and fire someone for being transgender in 35 states. The president has endorsed legislation that will institute federal non-discrimination protections, but does the administration see this problem as part of the larger jobs issue?

Jay Carney: Well, look, you mentioned what the president has endorsed, and he believes that the LGBT community should absolutely not be discriminated against with regards to jobs or anything else. But there is a broad problem that affects all Americans, and that is 9.1 percent unemployment and 2.5 percent GDP growth, which is good but not nearly good enough. So he is focused on doing what he can to take measures that will help the economy grow and create jobs.

Blade: If the president thinks this is a problem, why wasn’t this issue addressed as part of the American Jobs Act? Why isn’t he talking about this problem as he makes a case about jobs around the country?

Carney: The president is out there making the case about jobs broadly every day — much, apparently, to the annoyance of some folks in Congress, but he will keep doing it. And he will keep doing it unless and until every American who’s looking for a job gets one. And if that doesn’t happen, then you’ll continue to hear him talking about it.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

2 Comments
  • ENDA isn’t a priority and lacks momentum not only because of the inertia of Obama and Congress but the gay community itself. We could have made ENDA the priority after Hate Crimes became law but the community chose to make ending the ban in the military a greater priority than ENDA even though most people in the community don’t work for the US military. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid failed us by putting off a vote on ENDA first for health care reform and then due to endless other excuses such as two gay bills could not be considered at once. ENDA should have been the item to be voted on over ending the ban in the military.

    Obama addressed ending the ban in his Presidential address but no mention was made of ENDA! And DOMA continues to take the limelight over ENDA in the media and in most debates. Until you make ENDA the top priority and stop trying to do a million things at once it isn’t going anywhere!

    Further, gay groups like HRC probably don’t have any interest in seeing ENDA become law because once it is how much more use would an organization like that be other than extending ENDA to including Housing, Publc Accommodations and Services?

    • Helen, with all due respect to your frnied, as a retired federal employee, it was the Cliinton administration which pushed agencies to initiate policies respecting and protecting lgbt (yes, t too) people and adding lgbt representatives to HR advisory boards. The agency I worked for followed with their policy protecting lgbt people (being a supervisor during those years). They specifically asked for a trans-representative for the agency board.Unfortunately policies don’t change people, and despite all the best intentions, only a few places fully accepted transpeople. And despite all those policies, they weren’t regulations to really protect lgbt people against covert discrimination, meaning transfer, reassignment, even demotion, etc., so while you kept your employment, it wasn’t necessarily in the same place or in the same job. And it’s why most stayed in the proverbial closet.

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