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DENIED: White House says ‘no’ to ENDA exec order

Request for directive rebuffed at high-level meeting

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The Obama administration has categorically denied requests from LGBT advocates to issue an executive order protecting LGBT people against workplace discrimination at this time, according to individuals who took part in a White House meeting on Wednesday. The denial was corroborated by a senior administration official.

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign and among the attendees, said advocates were told the administration won’t take action to bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

“Earlier today, we were told that the administration is not ready to move forward with a federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order at this time,” Solmonese said. “We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president. The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender. Given the number of employees that would be covered by this executive order, it represents a critical step forward.”

Solmonese continued that extensive research and polling has been done demonstrating that the executive order would be a useful tool and would enjoy broad support.

“Ten years of HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, as well as the research of our partner organizations to include the Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute, demonstrate that there is ample rationale for this kind of order,” Solmonese said. “No similar executive order has ever had this kind of extensive research or factual basis established. While we believe that further study is unnecessary, we will continue to engage with the Administration to ensure that the case is made even stronger for workplace protections.”

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement on the meeting that Obama remains committed to legislation that would bar workplace discrimination against LGBT people known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“The president is dedicated to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans and that is why he has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Inouye said. “The president is committed to lasting and comprehensive change and therefore our goal is passage of ENDA, which is a legislative solution to LGBT employment discrimination – just as the president pressed for legislative repeal of [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’].”

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said the administration doesn’t expect to issue an executive order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors at this time.

“We are deeply committed to working hand-in-hand with the LGBT community to enlist support from key stakeholders and other decision-makers, and to continue to engage with and educate the business community and the public more broadly about the importance of employment nondiscrimination and the importance of passing ENDA,” the official said.

Another attendee at the meeting, gay Democratic lobbyist Robert Raben, corroborated that advocates were told the executive order wouldn’t happen, but the goal of the meeting was more to explore ways that the administration could address workplace discrimination facing LGBT Americans — primarily through legislative means.

“For me, it was a conversation about very, very interested and committed people about what the administration could be doing to make the case for … protections of people in the employment context,” Raben said. “What could they be doing to get ENDA moving? What should they be studying and understanding and what data do they need? … So for me, it was less about the tactic of an executive order and more about can we figure out how to work together to get ENDA over the finish line?”

Raben continued he felt many advocates in attendance at the meeting “focused on an executive order,” but he doesn’t fall into that category.

“That’s not my position,” Raben said. “I don’t live and die on a particular tactic. I’ve been working on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for 20 years in January. … I don’t get worried about a particular tactic, I’m worried about how we change people’s minds so the Chamber of Commerce isn’t ridiculous about it.”

Raben added he has no idea whether the Chamber of Commerce has weighed in on an executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT people.

Others in attendance at the meeting who issued statements saying the administration wouldn’t issue an executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT people were Carey and Stachelberg.

Since the executive order is similar in its goal to ENDA, the directive has sometimes been referred to as the “ENDA” executive order. However, the order would be more limited in scope because it only affects federal contractors. Multiple sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told the Blade the Labor and Justice Departments have cleared such a measure and it’s awaiting action at the White House.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Peter Rosenstein

    April 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    We will all keep fighting on this issue. No is not an acceptable answer.

  2. The Once-ler

    April 12, 2012 at 3:53 am

    As jaded as it may sound, wait until after the election. This is so obviously a politically motivated move it’s sick.

  3. NikkiH

    April 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Will somebody please run for president that has some balls? I’m so tired of my vote being taken for granted. I think I may just sit this election out. Obama is no better than Romney.

  4. Bruce Majors

    April 12, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Former two term New Mexico governor Gary Johnson will be on the ballot in all 50 states and he supports marriage equality. You should vote for him if for no other reason to send a signal to Obama that you don’t like the waffling and mendacity. If you live in a state that is already going to be won by either Obama or Romney anyway, like DC or Maryland, don’t throw our vote away for or against someone who is already winning or losing. Use it to send a signal by voting Johnson.

  5. Kurt

    April 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I support the idea of an E.O. However, I notice that a good number of the folks criticizing Obama for not going with this less than quarter-measure, are the same folks that opposed ENDA when it did not include transgender protection. I’ve come to believe they are just professional cranks.

  6. Laura Hart

    April 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    What the administration needs to do to get ENDA passed is to work with the Republicans to get it past. After all, it worked so well with the stimulus, with health care reform, with auto industry bale out with infrastructure funding, etc. Where would the Obama Presidency be without the full support of the Republican party.

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National

Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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