December 5, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
White House still withholding ENDA executive order

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

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that President Obama is not currently planning to revisit the idea of issuing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers at the start of his second term.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney reiterated that the administration prefers a legislative solution to the problem — passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — similar to the process that led to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Our position on that hasn’t changed,” Carney said. “We point to, as you and I have discussed, the process that led to the effective repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a model for the way to approach these issues. I don’t have any updates for you on our approach.”

Carney reiterated Obama’s support for ENDA while noting that the proposed executive order does not provide expansive protections that would be afforded under the legislation.

“The president supports an inclusive ENDA that would provide lasting and comprehensive protections for LGBT people across the country regardless of whether they happen to work for a government contractor, and we look forward to continuing to support that process and that legislation,” Carney said.

In April, the White House announced it wouldn’t issue an executive order at this time requiring federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Amid the speculation President Obama was holding off on the order until after the election, LGBT advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Work renewed calls for the directive. Over the weekend, prominent gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elemendorf was quoted by lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb as saying Obama “needs to do it in the first six months of the year.”

Asked whether his remarks rule out the possibility of the order within the first six months of next year, Carney said he isn’t ”speculating on a hypothetical situation.”

“I would simply point to what our position has been and the avenue that we believe is the best to pursue broad-based protections for LGBT people,” Carney added.

Pressed on the difficulties of passing ENDA in a Republican-controlled House, Carney replied, “Many people said just that, even though it was in the prior Congress, about repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We believe that the country has moved dramatically on issues like this, and that this president is committed to civil rights and to building on protections that are necessary for LGBT people as he is for all Americans.”

Under further questioning, Carney had no comment on whether Obama has met with victims of anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. Obama has met with Kylar Broadus, a transgender advocate who testified before the Senate about the workplace discrimination he faced at a major financial institution.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, issued a statement to the Blade in response to the exchange with Carney and expressed continued optimism that Obama would issue the order.

“I share Steve Elmendorf’s optimism that the president will sign the executive order during the first part of 2013 because the Obama administration has built such a strong record of taking executive actions for LGBT fairness,” Almeida said. “Freedom to Work is among the organizations that believe the president should sign the order right away, and we’re optimistic he will sign it very soon.”

Almeida reiterated his call for a Senate vote on ENDA regardless of whether it’s short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and made a new call for Obama to enumerate the need to pass the legislation as part of the upcoming State of the Union Address.

“The State of the Union Address would be a great opportunity for such a call to action, and it would give Majority Leader Reid the opportunity to demonstrate through his actions that he can provide stronger leadership than Speaker Boehner,” Almeida said.

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

Washington Blade: Jay, I want to go back to something we haven’t talked about for a while. There’s been a renewed call for President Obama to issue that executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. Over the weekend, Steve Elemendorf, one of the president’s supporters during the election, said it needs to happen within the first six months of next year. Will President Obama revisit this idea as he begins his second term?

Jay Carney: Our position on that hasn’t changed. We point to, as you and I have discussed, the process that led to the effective repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a model for the way to approach these issues. I don’t have any updates for you on our approach. The president supports an inclusive-ENDA that would provide lasting and comprehensive protections for LGBT people across the country regardless of whether they happen to work for a government contractor, and we look forward to continuing to support that process and that legislation.

Blade: So that rules out the possibility of the order within the first six months of next year?

Carney: Again, I’m not speculating on a hypothetical situation. I would simply point to what our position has been and the avenue that we believe is the best to pursue broad-based protections for LGBT people.

Blade: Given that Republicans still control Congress after Election Day, isn’t leaving this up to the legislative process condemn LGBT people to lack of workplace non-discrimination protections for at least two years?

Carney: Many people said just that, even though it was in the prior Congress, about repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We believe that the country has moved dramatically on issues like this, and that this president is committed to civil rights and to building on protections that are necessary for LGBT people as he is for all Americans.

Blade: One last question.

Carney: I’ve given about all I can give.

Blade: President Obama said in May when he endorsed marriage equality that he spoken with service members who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and with same-sex couples looking to be married. Has he ever spoken to a victim of LGBT workplace discrimination?

Carney: I don’t know that he has or hasn’t. I just don’t have a conversation to read out to you.

Blade: Can you get back to me on that?

Carney: I’m not going to ask him about every conversation he’s had.

 

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

9 Comments
  • Yikes! Bad day, Jay Scrooge? Someone please bring Jay a hot toddie– with some good cheer!

    Let’s hope the WH staff doesn’t think that a dismissive, almost contemptuous response to the Blade serves our president well.

    First, DADT repeal is an ahistorical example in this instance. Jay ought to be reminded (gently, puh-leeze) that 1993′s DADT specifically prevented future presidents from issuing an EO to repeal it. President Obama could not have repealed DADT by EO had he wanted to.

    Also, is Carney seriously suggesting– as was the situation with DADT repeal– we have to wait until a Democratic president has an overwhelming majority in BOTH the Senate and the House– during a lame duck session, no less– to get full ENDA passage?

    Nonsense. It doesn’t even make crassly expedient political sense. That could be a 10, 20, or 30-year wait.

    And what is it about the tacit complicity of a president in federally subsidized anti-LGBT workplace discrimination that Jay Carney does not understand?

    Fact is that real LGBT people are suffering very real employment discrimination– *right now*– at the hands of contractors who are aided and enabled in their discriminatory practices by their federal government benefactors. That is the same said federal government whose top executive official is President Barack Obama.

    If the President of the United States won’t stand against discrimination, what evidence does his spokesperson have to think members of Congress– both Dems and GOPs– won’t simply follow the president’ bad example?

    Just as damaging for the president is Carney’s not credible, implied political calculus. It very much besmirches an attribute of the president’s well-known and admired ‘brand’ among voters and legislators alike.

    This is a president who has rightly touted his ability to compromise, to move the ball forward– and especially, to NOT let a *current good* fall victim to a *future perfect*.

    Sure, the Prez has fought his last personal campaign. However, President Obama does have the unique opportunity to lead on this issue– right now. An Obama EO can be framed to set a courageous example of non-discrimination for all employers. And– as part of an overall moral-high-ground effort, that will strengthen, not weaken, the efforts of our allies on the Hill to get full ENDA passage.

    A number of good presidents have ‘coasted’ after their re-election. But the great ones of history never stopped trying to improve their record.

    • While, of course, Obama could not have “repealed” DADT personally in ANY way, federal law 10 United States Code 12305, the denials of a few shills to the contrary, unequivocally empowered him to, despite ANY law, freeze discharges in the name of national security, Had he shown that courage, some 800 more gay and lesbian service members would not have been needlessly and cold-bloodedly thrown out and into unemployment lines while legislation and “implementation” proceeded.

  • Keep pushing for it and sign the petition to make your wishes known http://www.wh.gov/9ALQ.

  • "[T]he process that led to the effective repeal of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'" included, as its most critical component, Democratic supermajorities controlling both houses of Congress. How, pray tell, does the administration anticipate following that "model"?

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