January 31, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Carney riled by questions on ENDA executive order
Jay Carney, White House, gay news, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had a testy exchange with the Blade over the ENDA executive order (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had few answers on Friday about a heavily sought executive order from President Obama barring LGBT workplace discrimination during an exchange with the Washington Blade that ended testily.

Responding to the Blade report that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the LGBT Equality Caucus there’s “no way” the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would get done this year, Carney said when asked if it’s time for the federal contractor executive order that House leadership often brings up bills even after making such declarations.

“I would simply say that that is the wrong approach,” Carney said. “The president strongly supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He believes strongly and knows that it’s the right thing to do. I would suggest that there have been occasions when leaders in the House have declared something won’t happen, and it happens anyway. And we certainly hope that’s the case here.”

UPDATE: In a subsequent tweet, Carney clarified that he was referring to the speaker’s remarks as the “wrong approach,” not the executive order.

President Obama continues to withhold the executive order as LGBT advocates say the directive is a campaign promise from his 2008 president campaign.

Asked whether the president shares the view the executive order is a campaign promise, Carney dodged.

“I can simply tell, you, Chris, I don’t have any updates for you on the issue of a hypothetical executive order for LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors,” Carney said. “We’re focused right now on the legislation, which, again has made progress in Congress and we’re going to keep pushing on it.”

The exchanged ended with Carney calling on another reporter in the White House briefing room without responding to the final question from the Blade.

A partial transcript of the exchange follows:

Washington Blade: Thanks, Jay. The Washington Blade reported this week that Speaker Boehner told the LGBT Equality Caucus there’s “no way” the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will get done this session. Given that forecast from the speaker, is it time for the president to sign an executive order to protect LGBT workers from discrimination?

Jay Carney: Well, I would simply say that that is the wrong approach, and the president strongly supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He believes strongly and knows that it’s the right thing to do. I would suggest that there have been occasions when leaders in the House have declared something won’t happen, and it happens anyway. And we certainly hope that’s the case here.

Blade: But if the president is saying he “strong supports” the legislation, and the president is saying there’s “no way” the bill is coming up, so what will it take for the president to sign that executive order?

Carney: Chris, you know, we’ve talked about this a lot. The president believes that an Employment Non-Discrimination Act signed into law is the right way to go here. And we strongly support, and put a lot of energy behind that effort. I don’t think a lot of people predicted it would pass the Senate, but it did, and one person’s opposition to it in the House does not dissuade us from pressing for its passage, and its arriving on the president’s desk so he can sign it into law. We’re going to keep pushing on that.

Blade: LGBT advocates who are pushing for that executive order say it’s a campaign promise from the president. Is that a view the president shares?

Carney: I can simply tell, you, Chris, I don’t have any updates for you on the issue of a hypothetical executive order for LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors. We’re focused right now on the legislation, which, again has made progress in Congress and we’re going to keep pushing on it.

Blade: In an apparent 2007 questionnaire —

Carney: I want to give others —

Blade: — one last question in. In an apparent 2007 questionnaire to the Houston GLBT Political Caucus signed by then-candidate Obama, the president was asked if he supports for a formal written policy against LGBT discrimination for federal contractors. The response was simply “yes.” How is that not a campaign promise?

Carney: Chris, I’ve answered this question. We believe that right way to go is to pass legislation that applies to everyone that enshrines in law the equal rights that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act spells out. So, I don’t have an update for you on the other issue —

Blade: So you’re disputing the assertions of the president’s supporters on this issue?

Carney: Cheryl.

NOTE: Although the Blade stated during the White House briefing the apparent questionnaire response was from 2007, it was actually dated in 2008.

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
  • Chris, thanks for pushing the WH on this and keeping it in front of them. I wonder what Obama would tell a lesbian in Pennsylvania who just got fired or a trans person in Wyoming who was denied a job, both of whom are living on crackers and peanut butter and can barely afford to keep the heat on. i wonder if the President would look them in the eye and say, "Sorry, there's nothing I can do to help you, but call your Congress person to tell them to pass ENDA, that I support. It's made it through the Senate, I'm confident it can get through the House." All his talk of executive orders, yet referring to this one as "hypothetical" is a kick in the teeth to the community.

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