November 1, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Carney indicates ENDA vote won’t change things for executive order
Jay Carney, White House, gay news, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated a success Senate vote on ENDA won’t change things for an LGBT executive order (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated Friday a successful vote in the Senate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act won’t change the situation for an executive order against LGBT workplace discrimination.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade on whether the vote would change President Obama’s thinking, Carney reiterated the previously stated White House position that legislation is the best approach to LGBT workplace discrimination as opposed to administrative action.

“I think that what I would say is that we have long believed that legislation, an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that would enshrine these protections into law is the right way to go,” Carney said. “You and I have this discussion periodically over the year, and that’s still our view. I’m not going to prejudge what’s going to happen in Congress. What I can tell you is that it’s come further than I think some people expected a year ago, and we want to continue to see that progress in Congress.”

When the Blade asked Carney to clarify whether his response was a “no,” Carney didn’t deny that characterization, saying, “I think I answered your question expertly.”

Much to the consternation of LGBT advocates, Obama has withheld issuing a heavily sought executive order that would bar federal contractors from engaging in LGBT workplace discrimination. While Republicans remain in control of the U.S. House, some observers say this administrative action is the only way at this time — even with progress in the Senate — to institute federal workplace non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Carney addressed the Blade question about executive order after restating for reporters that Obama “has long supported” ENDA and is “making clear” that a “yes” vote on the legislation is right course of action. A cloture vote in the Senate is slated for Monday evening.

“The president has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and his administration has and will continue to work to build support,” Carney said. “What we have seen is progress as that bill has moved through committee and now will get a vote in the full Senate. We’re making clear to every senator who may be on the fence or who may not have expressed support for it that we strongly believe that a ‘yes’ vote is the right vote on this legislation. So, we’re working towards that end.”

Asked whether he was confident the Senate will pass ENDA, Carney declined to make a prediction.

“I think counting votes in the Senate is something that experts in the Senate do,” Carney said. “We know that it’s the right thing to do and we totally support it.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, renewed his call for Obama to sign an executive order for LGBT workplace protections in response to the exchange with Carney.

“The best thing the President can do for ENDA is lead by example just as Republican and Democratic presidents both signed federal contractor executive orders before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act,” Almeida said. “President Obama should sign the order this month.”

Q: On Monday, it looks like the Senate will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for the first time since 1996, when it failed by one vote. What’s the White House to make sure that doesn’t happen?

Carney: The president has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and his administration has and will continue to work to build support. What we have seen is progress as that bill has moved through committee and now will get a vote in the full Senate. We’re making clear to every senator who may be on the fence or who may not have expressed support for it that we strongly believe that a “yes” vote is the right vote on this legislation. So, we’re working towards that end.

Q: Are you confident that it will pass?

Carney: I think counting votes in the Senate is something that experts in the Senate do. We know that it’s the right thing to do and we totally support it.

Q: The passage in the Senate of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, if it get passed through that one chamber, would that change the landscape for the president’s thinking on that executive order prohibiting LGBT workplace discrimination for federal contractors?

Carney: You’re asking me to predict whether or not it will pass the House?

Q: I’m asking you if the Senate passed ENDA, would that change the president’s thinking about the executive order for the LGBT workplace discrimination?

Carney: I think that what I would say is that we have long believed that legislation, an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that would enshrine these protections into law is the right way to go. You and I have this discussion periodically over the year, and that’s still our view. I’m not going to prejudge what’s going to happen in Congress. What I can tell you is that it’s come further than I think some people expected a year ago, and we want to continue to see that progress in Congress.

Q: So that’s a “no.” The Senate vote is not going to affect the executive order?

Carney: I think I answered your question expertly.

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

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