March 17, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Carney quiet on St. Patrick’s Day parades, trans military service
Jay Carney, White House, gay news, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has no comment on boycotts of St. Patrick Day’s parades or transgender military service. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no comment Monday about two issues in the news: decisions to boycott St. Patrick’s Day parades over LGBT exclusion and lifting the ban on openly transgender service members in the U.S. military.

Carney said he hasn’t spoken to President Obama about boycotts of parades in New York City and Boston — including by the mayors of those cities — as a result of organizers prohibiting LGBT contingents from identifying themselves as such during the march.

“The president does oppose discrimination, but I haven’t talked to him about boycotts of those parades,” Carney said.

The Blade also asked Carney why President Obama would act to freeze the assets of Russian officials connected to the country’s military incursion into Ukraine, but not take the same step for lawmakers responsible for Russia’s anti-gay laws. Carney said the actions taken against Russia with respect to Ukraine “are focused on the very real violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that we’ve been talking about.”

As reported by the Blade, Yelena Mizulina, a sponsor of the controversial anti-gay propaganda law and state Duma deputy, was actually among those whose assets were frozen. The White House deferred comment on whether her authorship of the law contributed to Obama’s decision to freeze her assets to the Treasury Department. [UPDATE: A Treasury Department official said Mizulina's connection to the anti-gay law didn't contribute to Obama's decision to freeze her assets and she was sanctioned "because of her status as a senior Russian government official."]

With regard to a recent Palm Center report saying there’s “no compelling medical reason” to continue prohibition of openly transgender service members in the military, Carney deferred to the Defense Department. Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said ”there are no plans to change the department’s policy and regulations which do not allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military.”

The brief transcript of the Q&A follows:

Washington Blade: Lots to talk about. On St. Patrick’s Day, a number of beer companies announced they wouldn’t sponsor parades in New York City and Boston as Mayors Bill de Blasio and Marty Walsh announced they would boycott the ones in their own cities because LGBT contingents were allowed to identify themselves as such during the march. Does the president believe those boycotts were the right decision?

Jay Carney: I haven’t spoken to the president about those boycotts.

Blade: You said before the president opposes discrimination. Wouldn’t that principle apply to those parades here?

Carney: The president does oppose discrimination, but I haven’t talked to him about boycotts of those parades.

Blade: On Russia. If the president will impose sanctions on officials connected to military incursion into Ukraine, why hasn’t he done the same for the officials responsible for the anti-gay laws in Russia, say by freezing their assets under the Magnitsky Act?

Carney: We’ve made our views abundantly clear about that kind of legislation and about efforts to undermine the civil rights of Russian citizens, but the actions we’ve taken today and the sanctions that have been announced today are focused on the very real violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that we’ve been talking about.

Blade: And lastly, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enabled openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, but transgender people are still barred because of medical regulations. Last week, an independent commission led by a former U.S. surgeon general issued a report saying there’s no compelling medical reason to [continue] this ban and called on the Commander-in-Chief to lift it. Will the president direct the Pentagon to lift the ban on transgender service?

Carney: I don’t have anything on that. I’ll have to direct you to the Pentagon at this point.

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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