April 23, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
White House asserts ENDA support, but some want more
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney couldn't name one action the President has taken on behalf of ENDA (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

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

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday couldn’t identify any actions President Obama has undertaken in the past year on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimation Act, but reiterated he’ll work to build support for the bill.

Asked by the Washington Blade what Obama has done in the past year to build support for ENDA, Carney touted the president’s commitment to LGBT rights and support for the legislation — without naming any specific initiative to build support for it.

“The fact is, as you noted, we have long supported — the president has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and now it’s being introduced, and that is a good thing,” Carney said. “The administration will continue to work to build support for this important legislation because we believe that this is the right way, the right approach to take, because it is inclusive and that’s why we supported it then, that’s why we’re glad to see it being reintroduced.”

Pressed to identify specific actions Obama has undertaken on behalf of ENDA, Carney reiterated Obama’s support for the bill — which is set for introduction this week — and talked about the future.

“His support for this specific legislation, I think, is reflected in the fact that it’s being introduced, as you said, in the House and the Senate,” Carney said. “And he will work with like-minded lawmakers who support movement on this legislation to see it pass and ultimately signed into law. That’s how this process works. This is the approach the president thought was the right one to take and he’s encouraged by the progress being made.”

That’s more or less been the message since one year ago when LGBT advocates were informed by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett at a high-level White House meeting that President Obama wouldn’t issue at this time an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. Instead, White House officials said they would work to build support for ENDA.

But beyond the messaging, no work from the White House to build support for ENDA has been evident to supporters of the bill as the administration has pushed for gun control and comprehensive immigration reform in the past year. A Reuters article published earlier this month quoted Jarrett as saying ENDA “is a priority,” but also reported that congressional aides see little evidence the White House is pushing to win support.

Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, called on Obama to speak out himself on the importance of passing ENDA.

“It would be great to hear President Obama make the case for ENDA in his own words, explaining how LGBT workplace fairness creates benefits for both America’s businesses and LGBT employees,” Almeida said. “It would be helpful for the president and other members of the administration to start publicly challenging both chambers of Congress to bring ENDA to a vote this year, and the White House legislative team could start urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to find Senate floor time for an ENDA vote this summer.”

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

Washington Blade: A question on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is going to be introduced in both House and Senate on Thursday. It’s been more than a year since you announced that in lieu of that LGBT non-discrimination executive order, you’d work to build support to pass legislation. In fact, it was on April 12 of last year that you said, “We plan to pursue a number of strategies to attain that goal.” Can you name one thing the President has done over the course of the past year to build support for LGBT non-discrimination workplace protections?

Jay Carney: I think the President’s record on LGBT issues and his commitment to rights for LGBT Americans is, I think, clear and demonstrated by his views and the actions that he has taken and the actions that his administration has taken at his direction. The fact is, as you noted, we have long supported — the President has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and now it’s being introduced, and that is a good thing. The administration will continue to work to build support for this important legislation because we believe that this is right way, the right approach to take, because it is inclusive and that’s why we supported it then, that’s why we’re glad to see it being reintroduced.

Blade: You keep saying you’re going to work to build support. Can you give me one thing — any initiative, any action — the President has undertaken to build support for this legislation?

Carney: Again, Chris, I think the President’s record on these issues has been pretty well documented. It’s clear his commitment to the rights of LGBT Americans is very clear. His support for this specific legislation, I think, is reflected in the fact that it’s being introduced, as you said, in the House and the Senate. And he will work with like-minded lawmakers who support movement on this legislation to see it pass and ultimately signed into law. That’s how this process works. This is the approach the President thought was the right one to take and he’s encouraged by the progress being made.

Blade: But do you have any initiative that the President has undertaken?

Carney: Again, I think I’ve answered the question.

Watch the video here:

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

8 Comments
  • "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday couldn’t identify any actions President Obama has undertaken in the past year on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimation Act, but reiterated he’ll work to build support for the bill."

    In a related story, an HRC spokesperson on Tuesday couldn't identify any actions President Griffin has undertaken in the past year on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimation Act, but reiterated he’ll work to build support for the bill.

  • I have set up a petition on the White House We the People Site. HERE ARE DETAILS ON HOW TO SIGN THE PETITION. PLEASE GO TO THE SITE AND SIGN TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT.

    From: Whitehouse.gov <info@messages.whitehouse.gov>.
    Date: Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 9:34 AM.
    Subject: GRANT THROUGH EXECUTIVE ORDER NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTION TO GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER CITIZENS. has been published!
    To: tlonepartner@gmail.com

    Thank you for creating a petition on We the People!

    You now have 30 days to get 100,000 signatures in order for your petition.
    to be reviewed by the White House. Until your petition has 150 signatures,
    it will only be available from the following URL and will not be publicly.
    viewable on the Open Petitions section of We the People:

    http://wh.gov/eEUm

    ———————————————–

    Here's some more information about this petition:

    GRANT THROUGH EXECUTIVE ORDER NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTION TO.
    GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER CITIZENS.

    Through Presidential Executive Order grant federal non-discrimination.
    protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in the same way.
    it is currently granted to others on the basis of race, color, religion, sex.
    or national origin. Similar rights were granted to these other groups under.
    Executive Order 11246, which was signed into law on September 24, 1965. It
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  • We’ve heard the same excuses from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid when they had control of both chambers! The time to move on ENDA was when we had control of all the key players…House, Senate and White House to make the bill a law. We were let down with excuses that there were higher priorities like healthcare to handle first, or we didn’t have enough support to pass the bill. They couldn’t focus on an emploment bill at a time when so many can’t find jobs and discrmination is even more likely for LGBT people!

    When the conservative republicans are in control, they use obstruction to keep an ENDA bill from even getting a fair up and down vote. Even if the Senate passes the bill, the House will likely do nothing on it!

    Unless we regain control in the mid-term election and this time the Dems don’t let us down with excuses, we may be stuck wasting yet another generation if not more before we get an ideal opportunity to actually do it!

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