May 31, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
White House mum on gay donors, Exxon Mobil

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest had no comment on Friday when asked about gay donors expressing discontent with the Democratic Party or Exxon Mobil’s rejection of non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Earnest said he doesn’t “want to react to” threats from gay Democratic donors who say they’ll no longer give funds in the wake of gay couples being excluded from immigration reform and the White House withholding an LGBT workplace discrimination executive order.

Instead, with respect to immigration reform, Earnest reiterated that the bill pending before the Senate doesn’t have everything Obama wants, including a provision for bi-national same-sex couples. The spokesperson suggested that provision may come up as a floor amendment to the immigration bill.

“And the priority that you’ve identified there is one of the things that the President is not getting — at least at this point, doesn’t look like he’ll get in this compromise,” Earnest said. “I do think that there is an amendment process on the Senate floor where this could be considered, so I don’t want to predict the outcome at this point. But what I can tell you is that this is something that — this is a compromise piece of legislation that’s moving forward.”

On the executive order for LGBT workplace non-discrimination protections, Earnest said he had no updates.

“I don’t have any updates for you in terms of any timing or any possible executive order, or whether anything is being drafted or anything else you might ask along those lines,” Earnest said.

Earlier this week, Jonathan Lewis, a progressive Miami, Fla., based philanthropist, told the Blade he would withhold donations to Democrats “until we see our friends’ actions and deeds align with their rhetoric.” In a subsequent article by Reuters, Juan Ahonen-Jover, another Florida-based philanthropist, said he’s not giving until “the Democratic Party starts acting like Democrats and show some spine.”

Earnest still had no comment about the directive when asked about the decision of shareholders at Exxon Mobil on Wednesday to reject a resolution that would have expanded its equal employment opportunity policy to include non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers.

“Look, I don’t have any update for you on the executive order front,” Earnest said.

In a leaked email obtained by the Blade, Democratic National Committee Chair Andrew Tobias said the rejection of the policy at Exxon Mobil may be the “hook” that puts the executive order “across the finish line.”

A transcript of the exchange follows:

Washington Blade: Thanks, Josh. This week, some prominent, gay Democratic Party donors publicly expressed discontent with the White House over not issuing that executive order against LGBT workplace discrimination and with Senate Democrats over the exclusion of gay couples from immigration reform. One donor, Jonathan Lewis, said he’s withholding donations to the Democratic Party “until we see our friends’ actions and deeds align with the rhetoric.” Are these threats from gay Democratic Party donors significant?

Josh Earnest: Well, I haven’t seen the threats, so I don’t want to react to them. But I’ll tell you that what we have said about the immigration compromise that’s moving through the Senate is that it broadly reflects the priorities that the President laid out, but the President is not getting every single thing that he wanted.

And the priority that you’ve identified there is one of the things that the President is not getting — at least at this point, doesn’t look like he’ll get in this compromise. I do think that there is an amendment process on the Senate floor where this could be considered, so I don’t want to predict the outcome at this point. But what I can tell you is that this is something that — this is a compromise piece of legislation that’s moving forward.

In terms of the executive order, I don’t have any updates for you in terms of any timing or any possible executive order, or whether anything is being drafted or anything else you might ask along those lines.

Blade: But I do want to put a fine point on that, because in an attempt to allay some of these concerns, DNC Treasurer, Andrew Tobias, said in an email to donors that was leaked to me that Exxon Mobil’s decision on Wednesday to reject a nondiscrimination policy towards LGBT workers may be a hook to push that executive order across the finish line. Does that company’s rejection of a nondiscrimination protection on Wednesday prompt any reconsideration at the White House about that directive?

Earnest: No, look, I don’t have any update for you on the executive order front.

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

1 Comment
  • Every time I see the White House say anything about the ENDA executive order it reminds me of an old Slade song that was popular when I was a kid. "See the chameleon, lying there in the sun, all things to everyone, run, run away.".

    Obama's cowardice on LGBT workplace rights becomes more sad and pathetic every day, but even more sad and pathetic is the lame excuses his spokespeople make for why Obama's so deep in ExxonMobil back pocket on this.

    Makes you wonder if there's really all that much of a difference between the GOP and the Dems anymore, at least when it comes to LGBT equality. Both parties worship at the altar of Big Business, working class American families be damned.

    We deserve better, much better, than what we've been getting from Democrats. Maybe it's time to take a page from the Tea Party and start primarying the fake progressives of today's Democratic Party and replacing them with some real ones.

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