April 12, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Reporters grill Carney over ENDA exec order

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

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney maintained the Obama administration is committed to passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as reporters pummeled him Thursday with sharp questions on the administration’s decision not to issue an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT bias in the workplace.

The questioning, which was initiated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker, began with an inquiry on why Obama won’t issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people

“The president is dedicated to securing equal rights for all LGBT Americans,” Carney said. “And that is why he has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The president is committed to lasting and comprehensive non-discrimination protections, and we plan to pursue a number of strategies to attain that goal.”

Carney said that pursuing a legislative solution to the problem is similar to the approach that the White House took with repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“And as it did then, our approach to this piece of legislation demonstrates the president’s very firm and strong commitment to non-discrimination and to securing equal rights for all Americans,” Carney said.

In a high-level White House meeting on Wednesday, LGBT advocates were informed the White House wouldn’t issue at this time an executive order against LGBT workplace discrimination. Multiple sources have said the Labor and Justice Departments have cleared the measure and it was awaiting action at the White House.

Carney said a political calculation was “absolutely not” involved in the administration’s decision not to issue the executive order.

“The president is committed to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans and that is why he has long supported ENDA,” Carney said. “I think the president’s record on LGBT issues speaks volumes about his commitment to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans. 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 non-discrimination.”

Asked by the Washington Blade whether the administration’s decision not to issue the order “at this time” opens the possibility for taking action at a later date, Carney demurred.

“We don’t talk about executive orders that may or may not be under consideration,” Carney said. “In this case, I can tell you that at this time we are not considering such an executive order. We are, however, actively working with stakeholders to build support for passage through Congress of a piece of legislation that would be far more comprehensive than an executive order.”

While Obama pursued legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” his administration twice limited the discharge authority to ease the burden on gay service members and make it more difficult to expel service members under the law.

When the Blade pointed this out during the briefing, Carney said the situations were different.

“It is a separate statement of action and fact,” Carney said. “We are not approaching this at this time through executive authority, through an executive order. We are, however — in another demonstration of the president’s firm commitment to securing equal rights for the LGBT community — aggressively pursuing passage of ENDA. And that requires working with stakeholders and building a body of persuasive evidence that this is the right thing to do. And that is what we’re committed to doing.”

A transcript of the exchange follows:

NBC News: Jay, the president has decided at this moment not to sign an executive order that would ban workplace discrimination by any federal contractor on the basis of sexual orientation. Based on the fact that the president has made past statements saying that he supports non-discrimination policies in the workplace, why not sign this executive order?

Jay Carney: Thank you for the question. The president is dedicated to securing equal rights for all LGBT Americans. And that is why he has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The president is committed to lasting and comprehensive non-discrimination protections, and we plan to pursue a number of strategies to attain that goal. Our hope is these efforts will result in the passage of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is a legislative solution to LGBT employment discrimination.

And I would make the comparison here that pursuing that strategy, the passage of ENDA, is very similar to the approach the president took for the legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

NBC News: Can you make the distinction between ENDA and signing this executive order?  In other words, if he does support ENDA, why not sign this executive order, which relates to a smaller part of the population and get that policy started?

Carney: Again, I think that the DADT repeal is instructive here in terms of the approach that we’re taking at this time. And while it is not our usual practice to discuss executive orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an EO on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time. We support, as I just said, legislation that has been introduced — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — and we will continue to work with congressional supporters to build — sponsors, rather, to build support for it.

We’re deeply committed to working hand-in-hand with partners in the LGBT community on a number of fronts to build the case for employment non-discrimination policies including by complementing the existing body of compelling research with government-backed data and analysis, building a coalition of key stakeholders and decision-makers, directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community — from major corporations to contractors to small business — and raising public awareness about the human and financial costs of discrimination in the work force.

NBC News: Tico Almeida, who’s the president of Freedom to Work, has issued a statement saying, “This is a political calculation that cannot stand.”  Is this a political calculation?

Carney: Absolutely not. The president is committed to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans and that is why he has long supported ENDA. I think the president’s record on LGBT issues speaks volumes about his commitment to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans.  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 non-discrimination.

And I think, again, the approach that we took in bringing about the repeal — working with Congress to bring about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is instructive here. And as it did then, our approach to this piece of legislation demonstrates the president’s very firm and strong commitment to non-discrimination and to securing equal rights for all Americans.

Washington Blade: Jay, if it’s not going to happen at this time is there some sort of commitment to issue an executive order at a later time?

Carney: Well, I’m simply saying that our approach is to focus on trying to build and expand support for passage of ENDA. That is our support. In terms of, again — as a rule — and we try to stick to it here — we don’t talk about executive orders that may or may not be under consideration. In this case, I can tell you that at this time we are not considering such an executive order. We are, however, actively working with stakeholders to build support for passage through Congress of a piece of legislation that would be far more comprehensive than an executive order.

Blade: It’s highly unlikely that the Congress will pass it given its current makeup. And the President has issued numerous executive orders under the theme “We Can’t Wait” because Congress has been unable to pass job legislation. Why is the President making this distinction with this LGBT jobs issue?

Carney: We believe that this is the right approach to achieve success here in a broad and comprehensive legislative action. And at this time, we’re not considering as a part of that an executive order.

Now, there are executive orders that this president has signed and there are executive orders, either real or imagined, that the president has not acted on, and that’s because we look at each issue and we decide on a strategy that we think makes the most sense to achieving the president’s policy objectives.

Blade: I have to correct you on how you said that the president legislatively repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  While that’s true, he twice took administrative action to limit discharge authority before that repeal legislation was passed. So to say that you need to have legislation and go without administrative action first is not true.

Carney: Well, that’s actually not a correction, Chris. It is a separate statement of action and fact.  We are not approaching this at this time through executive authority, through an executive order.  We are, however — in another demonstration of the president’s firm commitment to securing equal rights for the LGBT community — aggressively pursuing passage of ENDA. And that requires working with stakeholders and building a body of persuasive evidence that this is the right thing to do. And that is what we’re committed to doing.

Watch the video here (via Think Progress)

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
  • Why is the gay community being mindless drones for Obama????

  • What’s puzzling is why we got thrown under the Obama campaign bus over a thing that was so easy to do and had such widespread support. Does Sister Soulja have an opinion?

    Congrats to the WH press corps for not letting the president, his political operatives and Carney get away with this obvious hypocrisy. Let’s hope the issue is raised with the president at every campaign stop to November.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin