March 19, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
No updates from Carney on ENDA directive, despite pressure
White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, Gay News, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no updates on an ENDA executive order. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

Despite a letter this week signed by nearly 200 congressional Democrats calling on President Obama to take administrative action on behalf of LGBT workers, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no updates Wednesday on a potential executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney reiterated the position he’s stated numerous times that Obama is focused on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act through Congress as a means to protect LGBT workers.

“The fact is that legislation, which has moved in the Senate, if it were to be passed by the full Congress and signed into law would have the greatest benefit when it comes to ensuring the rights of LGBT individuals,” Carney said.

A partial transcript follows:

Washington Blade: Thanks, Jay. The president yesterday received a letter from nearly 200 members of Congress — right up to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer — calling on him to “immediately act” by signing non-discrimination executive order for LGBT workers. You said before this issue is best left to Congress, but if this many lawmakers are lobbing back to the president, has he misjudged the situation?

Jay Carney: Chris, we continue to support ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and I don’t have any update for you on possible executive orders. The fact is that legislation, which has moved in the Senate, if it were to be passed by the full Congress and signed into law would have the greatest benefit when it comes to ensuring the rights of LGBT individuals. On the issue of — that you ask me about regularly — of an executive order proposed, or speculated about, I just don’t have any updates.

Blade: But what makes you think that legislation should be the only course of action if lawmakers in Congress are saying that the president should issue an executive order as they pursue legislation?

Carney: Again, Chris, I just don’t have any new information to provide to you about our views on this, which we have discussed many times. There is no question, I think, in anyone’s mind that the passage of legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, would provide those protections broadly in a way the EO would not.

And as I’ve said before, opposition to that legislation is contrary to the tide of history and those lawmakers who oppose this will find, in the not too distant future, that they made a grave mistake and that they will regret it.

Blade: One last very important question on this. The letter takes note that “time is of the essence” because after an executive order is signed, full implementation will require a process that last many months, if not longer. Do you deny there’s a limited time for the president to exercise this option before time’s up at the end of his administration?

Carney: Chris, I’m not even sure there’s a question there, but I’ll point you to my previous answer.

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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