April 17, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Carney: No change in White House position on ENDA stopgap

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

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday the administration still holds the position that it won’t issue an executive order against LGBT workplace discrimination at this time — despite comments earlier this week from another spokesperson that the administration “hasn’t taken any options off the table.”

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney said the White House position ”hasn’t changed from when we started talking about this last week” when the administration announced it won’t issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

“[A]t this time we’re not pursuing an executive order,” Carney said. “I’m not going to speculate about executive orders that may or may not be pursued in the future. What I’m saying is right now we’re not. We discussed this pretty thoroughly last week, and the focus is on building a kind of support for a coalition behind passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that we hope would be to the kind of legislative action that would be especially effective in this case.”

On Monday, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, told the Blade and other media outlets in response to inquiries on the executive order, “While the administration hasn’t taken any options off the table, our belief is that the time is right for a comprehensive legislative approach to achieve passage of ENDA.”

Carney said he wasn’t aware about the response, but maintained the White House position hasn’t changed from when administration officials told LGBT advocates at a high-level meeting last week the executive order won’t happen at this time.

“I don’t know about the comment that you’re referring to,” Carney said. “I can tell you that our position hasn’t changed from when we started talking about this last week.”

Asked whether the White House has misjudged the patience of LGBT groups and others, like the National Council of La Raza, who expressed disappointment and called on Obama to revisit the decision, Carney dodged and spoke again about the importance of legislation — comparing the path to achieve federal workplace protections to the path pursued for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“I think that a good example, again, is to look at the approach that was taken by this administration dealing with his commitment to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and working with Congress and working with the Pentagon to ensure that that came to pass,” Carney said. “There was criticism at the time that we weren’t taking the right approach. In the end, I think, it has been shown to have been the right approach, and an effective approach, to build support in ensuring its implementation within the military. Because of the action that were taken and the approach that was taken, the implementation itself has been supremely effective and simple.”

There’s one distinction between passage of Employment Non-Discrimination Act at this time and passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in 2010. At the time, Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. Now Republicans have control of the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate has been reduced.

A transcript of the exchange between Carney and the Blade follows:

Washington Blade: I’d like some clarification on something a White House spokesperson said yesterday about that ENDA executive order against LGBT workplace discrimination. Last week, you said you weren’t going to be issuing that executive order at this time, but a spokesperson said yesterday you haven’t  taken “any options off the table.” Does this represent a change in the White House position from last week and mean there might be a situation in which you would —

Carney: I don’t know about the comment that you’re referring to. I can tell you that our position hasn’t changed from when we started talking about this last week. At this time, we believe that the right approach is to build support for passage of ENDA legislation.

I think an example of why this approach can be most effective is the way that we approached the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” So, there’ is no change. I don’t know about the anonymous quote —

Blade: It’s not anonymous quote. It’s from a White House spokesperson.

Carney: …What I just heard you say does not represent anything different from what I’ve said in the past, which is that at this time we’re not pursuing an executive order. I’m not going to speculate about executive orders that may or may not be pursued in the future. What I’m saying is right now we’re not. We discussed this pretty thoroughly last week, and the focus is on building a kind of support for a coalition behind passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that we hope would be to the kind of legislative action that would be especially effective in this case.

Blade: A number of LGBT advocates have expressed displeasure with the news from last week, and yesterday the National Council of La Raza called on the president to revisit the decision. Has the administration misjudged the patience of its supporters by not issuing this executive order?

Carney: Chris, I would simply say that the president believes that, in this case, the right approach is to try build support for ENDA. I think that a good example, again, is to look at the approach that was taken by this administration dealing with his commitment to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and working with Congress and working with the Pentagon to ensure that that came to pass. There was criticism at the time that we weren’t taking the right approach. In the end, I think, it has been shown to have been the right approach, and an effective approach, to build support in ensuring its implementation within the military. Because of the action that were taken and the approach that was taken, the implementation itself has been supremely effective and simple.

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

5 Comments
  • This is so typical of the Obama administration as they miss the bus again on LGBT issues. Obama doesn’t lead on any of our issues, he just sits around talking about how he is waiting on Congress to do something, and with the damn Blue Dog Democrats slowing us down nothing got done when the Dems were in the majority in the House and Senate two years ago. ENDA should have been a top priority for Obama and he didn’t do anything to advance it. I give the credit for passage of the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Act and the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to Nancy Pelosi and the other Progressive Democrats in Congress. Someone needs to ask Obama very bluntly about his failure to issue an executive order over ENDA, as well as his failure to support marriage equality.

  • Change we don’t need?!

  • The president’s political operatives have taken the luster and much credibility off Obama’s claim to be a ‘fierce advocate’ for the human rights of LGBT people. Like so many before them, they have become intoxicated with the power the country has entrusted to them.

    These hacks apparently now arrogantly believe human rights– such as the right to be free from unwarranted employment discrimination– are theirs to bestow upon the people based upon patronage and the whims of their election-year schedules.

    They need to be reminded (and in ways they will understand politically) that human rights inure to people from birth into the human species. Governments and governmental leaders can only affirm and protect those existing human rights through appropriate executive, legislative and/or judicial action.

    By dodging his ethical responsibility to issue an Executive Branch order, as is within his easy power as the people’s chief federal contracting executive, President Obama has become tacitly COMPLICIT in federal contractors’ anti-LGBT discrimination against their employees.

    This WH decision will do real harm to a number of LGBT victims, and their families, who are just trying to make a living with some dignity and respect in a tough economy. That’s more than a convenient political flip-flop by this president. It is a profound act of betrayal.

    President Obama should reconsider, and do the right thing.

  • Leave the ENDA issue til after the 2012 elections are over and hopefully Obama will win re-election. The more Gay activists bark about what they consider a new slight or a new setback the more ammo it gives at this critical time to the anti Obama and anti LGBT led GOP and Religious Right foes who have big bucks and Bolshevik-like fanatical followers.

  • WH LET THE DOGS OUT…
    (So bark we must.)
    ***
    “The more Gay activists bark about what they consider a new slight or a new setback the more ammo it gives at this critical time to the anti Obama and anti LGBT led GOP and Religious Right foes who have big bucks and Bolshevik-like fanatical followers.”
    ***
    Sure, Jim. Yours is the traditional argument for dealing with a terrific political friend who has seemingly, inexplicably (but very publicly, we should also note) reversed course from his commitment to LGBT equality.

    But the downside of remaining silent in the face of this kind of Obama flip-flop is far more risky, IMHO. History is instructive.

    We should not forget the 18 years of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ which ensued when a rookie President Clinton pulled the same kind of ‘about face’ (literally) with the gay community. We were told then to keep quiet and trust our new friend in the White House to look out for gay rights interests. We should not give ‘ammo’ to his critics. Yadda. Yadda.

    Contrary to that ‘just trust us’ advice, we got even worse, federally mandated discrimination with DADT– and it was codified in a way that tied all future presidents to DADT, without an unlikely reversal act by the congress.

    A Democratic president ‘compromise’ on official ‘DADT’ discrimination, in turn, became the chief excuse in congress NOT to support ENDA. The unspoken reasoning went… “Heck, if a Democrat president can support discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces, why can’t state, local and private employers do likewise?” So ENDA languished– for nearly TWO decades more– and maybe still is.

    But the cascading, chilling impact of Clinton’s reversal of his military non-discrimination stance in his ’92 campaign was even more destructive of LGBT civil rights– also for the better part of TWO decades.

    Virtually all LGBT civil rights progress at the federal legislative level came to an end, as well, all but dropping off Congress’ radar screen. And that, in turn, halted what could have been much faster legislative progress at state and local levels, too. If hadn’t been for some landmark court decisions (Romer, Lawrence, MA, HI, e.g.) and President Clinton’s subsequent Executive Orders and other actions–
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13087
    – well, it would have been a very dry 16 years for LGBT civil rights, indeed.

    This latest move, ruling out an Obama Executive Order to prohibit discrimination by federal contractors is a White House gaffe of potentially great proportions– similar to Clinton’s reversal in ’93.

    Nearly everyone last week immediately recognized it as bald-faced hypocrisy. But it is not really the ‘smart’, politically expedient move either. From a twisted viewpoint, it is just as puzzling.

    Exactly what net votes has the Obama campaign gained by this decision? It’s far more likely they’ve lost votes by flip-flopping and employing insulting doublespeak against their base. IMO, they have clearly done some damage to their LGBT and liberal base voter blocs.

    History also reminds us that even great, highly intelligent presidents make serious, if unintentional mistakes. FDR, Truman and JFK all reversed course or admitted mistakes on initial decisions that were clearly ill-considered. But, because it didn’t have to happen too often, those are considered noble,even endearing episodes, now.

    So all in all, it is good thing that liberal, conservative and independent ‘dogs’ of all sorts are ‘barking’ — reminding this WH in 2012 of its sudden anti-LGBT hypocrisy.

    This president ought to get control of his political peeps and do the right thing– because that’s usually the kind of guy he is known to be.

    (We still love Bo, tho.)
    ;)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qkuu0Lwb5EM&feature=fvst

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