Connect with us

National

Carney talks DOMA ruling, ExxonMobil vote

White House won’t issue EO in wake of failed shareholder resolution

Published

on

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday the administration won’t revisit the idea of issuing an executive order barring anti-gay job bias in the wake of the failed vote among ExxonMobil shareholders to adopt a non-discrimination policy for LGBT workers.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney said the White House would continue to pursue legislation — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — to institute non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers as opposed to issuing an executive order that changes policies at U.S. contractors like ExxonMobil.

“We don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time,” Carney said. “We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.”

Congress is unlikely to pass ENDA while Republicans remain in the control of the House. Last month, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the Washington Blade in response to a question on ENDA that he hasn’t “thought much about it.”

Asked how the right avenue to pursue at this time can be legislation while Republicans are in control of the House, Carney replied, “Well, because it’s the right thing to do.”

On Wednesday, ExxonMobil stockholders voted down a resolution proposed by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to include LGBT protections as part of the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy. According to the company, 20.6 percent of shareholders approved the resolution. Still, the board can adopt the policy without action from the shareholders.

An executive order requiring federal contractors to institute LGBT non-discrimination policies would affect ExxonMobil. The company has won more than $1 billion in federal contractors in the past decade. In the last fiscal year, the company claimed $158 million in federal contracts.

But in April, the administration announced it won’t issue the executive order at this time — a line that Carney maintained during the Thursday news conference.

Carney said the day after during an April news conference that the administration is committed to “directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community — from major corporations to contractors to small business — and raising public awareness about the human and financial costs of discrimination in the work force.”

Asked by the Blade whether he would follow up on these words and call on ExxonMobil to adopt an LGBT-inclusive policy on its own accord, Carney reaffirmed his earlier position, but wouldn’t go into details about conversations.

“Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today,” Carney said. “And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.”

Asked to clarify whether any conversations have taken place between the White House and ExxonMobil, Carney said that communications have taken place, but he wouldn’t go into details about talks with specific business leaders.

“I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had,” Carney said. “Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the president supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Carney’s remarks on ExxonMobil are “ambiguous,” but said he chooses to interpret them to mean the White House wants the company to adopt the non-discrimination policy — in addition to offering domestic partner benefits, which the company doesn’t provide.

“The question, then, is will the White House put some action behind Jay Carney’s words?” Almeida said. “Will President Obama use his bully pulpit to publicly call on ExxonMobil to ban discrimination and offer equal benefits to LGBT employees? … I urge White House staff to do more, especially during the upcoming Pride Month, to promote LGBT Americans’ freedom to work without discrimination.”

Almeida renewed his call for the administration to issue the executive order barring LGBT job bias so that all federal contractors like ExxonMobil will have to adopt non-discrimination policies.

“I urge the White House staff to do more to move the ball forward so that LGBT Americans will have the freedom to work without discrimination at ExxonMobil and all other companies that profit from taxpayer-funded contracts,” Almeida said. “The president should fulfill his campaign promise from four years ago and sign the executive order right away.”

Questions also came up during the news conference about the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act earlier in the day. The Associated Press asked Carney whether he wants to see the Supreme Court take up the case.

Carney explained the Obama administration’s belief that DOMA is unconstitutional and noted it is no longer defending the law in court, but deferred further questions to the Justice Department.

“That’s the position the president has held for some time now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice,” Carney said. “With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department. But there’s no question that this is in concert with the president’s views.”

Carney noted that Justice Department attorneys have participated in litigation.

“The Department of Justice participated in this very litigation in the First Circuit, consistent with the position that the president and the Attorney General have articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional,” Carney said. “But I wouldn’t necessarily call that passive.”

In a follow-up question from the Blade on whether the administration wants to see a vote to repeal DOMA in the Democratic-controlled Seante, Carney said he’s not aware of any talks of that nature.

“I haven’t heard that discussed,” Carney said. “The president’s position is clear. The actions taken as a result of that position are clear. Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific litigation is clear. But I don’t have anything for you on that proposal, which I have not heard.”

A partial transcript of the exchange between reporters and Carney on ExxonMobil and DOMA follows:

Associated Press: The First Circuit ruled this morning on the Defense of Marriage Act. Can you comment on the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional? Would you like to see the Supreme Court take this case? And if so, would this administration be actively arguing for the overturning of a law signed by a previous Democratic President?

Jay Carney: Well, Anne, as you know, the President has concluded that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. So has his attorney general. And for that reason, the administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts. That’s the position the President has held for some time now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice.

With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department.  But there’s no question that this is in concert with the President’s views.

Associated Press: But the question, though, is whether you would take your current somewhat passive position that you will not defend it and turn that around and actively argue for it — to overturn the law.

Carney: The Department of Justice participated in this very litigation in the First Circuit, consistent with the position that the president and the attorney general have articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional. I can’t predict what the next steps will be in handling cases of this nature. I would refer you to the Department of Justice. But I wouldn’t necessarily call that passive. …

Washington Blade: Jay, I want to ask you about two topics. First of all, I want to follow up on the DOMA ruling from today. The president campaigned on the repeal of DOMA. He has endorsed legislation to meet that goal. He has stop defending the law in court. He has sent Justice Department attorneys to litigate against that law in court.

Carney: Well said. (Laughter.) Yes?

Blade: But does the administration see value in holding a vote in the Democratically controlled Senate on repealing the law as a symbolic stand against that statute?

Carney: Well, I haven’t heard that discussed. The president’s position is clear. The actions taken as a result of that position are clear. Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific litigation is clear. But I don’t have anything for you on that proposal, which I have not heard.

Blade: The other thing I want to ask you about is, there was a vote yesterday among Exxon Mobil shareholders to include LGBT non-discrimination protections for its more than 80,000 workers that work at the corporation. The shareholders voted down that proposal but it’s still possible for the board to accept it without the shareholders taking action. 

Back in April, when you talked about the executive order not happening at this time, you said that the administration was committed to “directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community from major corporations to contractors to small businesses, and raising public awareness about the human and financial cost of discrimination in the workforce.”

Following up with these words, will the administration call on Exxon Mobil to adopt that non-discrimination policy?

Carney: Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today.  And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.

Blade: Has the administration communicated — any communications at all with Exxon Mobil?

Carney: Again, I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had.  Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the President supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.

Blade: In the past decade, Exxon Mobil has taken more than $1 billion in federal contracts.  In the wake of this vote, will the administration revisit the idea of issuing that executive order, barring federal contractors from taking money if they don’t have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Carney: Well, we don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time. We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.

Blade: How can the legislative avenue be right at this time when Republicans control Congress?  How will that legislation get through the Republican-controlled Congress?

Carney: Well, because it’s the right thing to do.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

National

Biden announces pardons for thousands convicted of federal marijuana possession

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.  It’s time that we right these wrongs”

Published

on

(Photo courtesy of NORML)

President Biden traveling in New York state on Thursday announced that he was granting a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.

Taking aim at federal conviction rates for marijuana possession, Biden noted in a statement released by the White House, “while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

This announcement by the president comes roughly a month before the midterm elections that will decide whether the president’s party can hold on to control of Congress. Democratic and progressive candidates have pushed the administration for action on this issue which which many Democratic activists have long called for.

The White House estimates will affect more than 6,500 people and in conjunction with his action today Biden is asking that all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.

Statement from President Biden on Marijuana Reform

As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.  Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.  And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.
 
Today, I am announcing three steps that I am taking to end this failed approach.
 
First, I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.  I have directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals.  There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result.  My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.
 
Second, I am urging all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.  Just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.
 
Third, I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.  Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic. 
 
Finally, even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.
 
Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.  It’s time that we right these wrongs. 

Continue Reading

homepage news

New Supreme Court term includes critical LGBTQ case with ‘terrifying’ consequences

Business owner seeks to decline services for same-sex weddings

Published

on

The U.S. Supreme Court is to set consider the case of 303 Creative, which seeks to refuse design services for same-sex weddings. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court, after a decision overturning Roe v. Wade that still leaves many reeling, is starting a new term with justices slated to revisit the issue of LGBTQ rights.

In 303 Creative v. Elenis, the court will return to the issue of whether or not providers of custom-made goods can refuse service to LGBTQ customers on First Amendment grounds. In this case, the business owner is Lorie Smith, a website designer in Colorado who wants to opt out of providing her graphic design services for same-sex weddings despite the civil rights law in her state.

Jennifer Pizer, acting chief legal officer of Lambda Legal, said in an interview with the Blade, “it’s not too much to say an immeasurably huge amount is at stake” for LGBTQ people depending on the outcome of the case.

“This contrived idea that making custom goods, or offering a custom service, somehow tacitly conveys an endorsement of the person — if that were to be accepted, that would be a profound change in the law,” Pizer said. “And the stakes are very high because there are no practical, obvious, principled ways to limit that kind of an exception, and if the law isn’t clear in this regard, then the people who are at risk of experiencing discrimination have no security, no effective protection by having a non-discrimination laws, because at any moment, as one makes their way through the commercial marketplace, you don’t know whether a particular business person is going to refuse to serve you.”

The upcoming arguments and decision in the 303 Creative case mark a return to LGBTQ rights for the Supreme Court, which had no lawsuit to directly address the issue in its previous term, although many argued the Dobbs decision put LGBTQ rights in peril and threatened access to abortion for LGBTQ people.

And yet, the 303 Creative case is similar to other cases the Supreme Court has previously heard on the providers of services seeking the right to deny services based on First Amendment grounds, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In both of those cases, however, the court issued narrow rulings on the facts of litigation, declining to issue sweeping rulings either upholding non-discrimination principles or First Amendment exemptions.

Pizer, who signed one of the friend-of-the-court briefs in opposition to 303 Creative, said the case is “similar in the goals” of the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation on the basis they both seek exemptions to the same non-discrimination law that governs their business, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA, and seek “to further the social and political argument that they should be free to refuse same-sex couples or LGBTQ people in particular.”

“So there’s the legal goal, and it connects to the social and political goals and in that sense, it’s the same as Masterpiece,” Pizer said. “And so there are multiple problems with it again, as a legal matter, but also as a social matter, because as with the religion argument, it flows from the idea that having something to do with us is endorsing us.”

One difference: the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation stemmed from an act of refusal of service after owner, Jack Phillips, declined to make a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple for their upcoming wedding. No act of discrimination in the past, however, is present in the 303 Creative case. The owner seeks to put on her website a disclaimer she won’t provide services for same-sex weddings, signaling an intent to discriminate against same-sex couples rather than having done so.

As such, expect issues of standing — whether or not either party is personally aggrieved and able bring to a lawsuit — to be hashed out in arguments as well as whether the litigation is ripe for review as justices consider the case. It’s not hard to see U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sought to lead the court to reach less sweeping decisions (sometimes successfully, and sometimes in the Dobbs case not successfully) to push for a decision along these lines.

Another key difference: The 303 Creative case hinges on the argument of freedom of speech as opposed to the two-fold argument of freedom of speech and freedom of religious exercise in the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation. Although 303 Creative requested in its petition to the Supreme Court review of both issues of speech and religion, justices elected only to take up the issue of free speech in granting a writ of certiorari (or agreement to take up a case). Justices also declined to accept another question in the petition request of review of the 1990 precedent in Smith v. Employment Division, which concluded states can enforce neutral generally applicable laws on citizens with religious objections without violating the First Amendment.

Representing 303 Creative in the lawsuit is Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that has sought to undermine civil rights laws for LGBTQ people with litigation seeking exemptions based on the First Amendment, such as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote in a Sept. 12 legal brief signed by her and other attorneys that a decision in favor of 303 Creative boils down to a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.

“Colorado and the United States still contend that CADA only regulates sales transactions,” the brief says. “But their cases do not apply because they involve non-expressive activities: selling BBQ, firing employees, restricting school attendance, limiting club memberships, and providing room access. Colorado’s own cases agree that the government may not use public-accommodation laws to affect a commercial actor’s speech.”

Pizer, however, pushed back strongly on the idea a decision in favor of 303 Creative would be as focused as Alliance Defending Freedom purports it would be, arguing it could open the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“One way to put it is art tends to be in the eye of the beholder,” Pizer said. “Is something of a craft, or is it art? I feel like I’m channeling Lily Tomlin. Remember ‘soup and art’? We have had an understanding that whether something is beautiful or not is not the determining factor about whether something is protected as artistic expression. There’s a legal test that recognizes if this is speech, whose speech is it, whose message is it? Would anyone who was hearing the speech or seeing the message understand it to be the message of the customer or of the merchants or craftsmen or business person?”

Despite the implications in the case for LGBTQ rights, 303 Creative may have supporters among LGBTQ people who consider themselves proponents of free speech.

One joint friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court, written by Dale Carpenter, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who’s written in favor of LGBTQ rights, and Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment legal scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues the case is an opportunity to affirm the First Amendment applies to goods and services that are uniquely expressive.

“Distinguishing expressive from non-expressive products in some contexts might be hard, but the Tenth Circuit agreed that Smith’s product does not present a hard case,” the brief says. “Yet that court (and Colorado) declined to recognize any exemption for products constituting speech. The Tenth Circuit has effectively recognized a state interest in subjecting the creation of speech itself to antidiscrimination laws.”

Oral arguments in the case aren’t yet set, but may be announced soon. Set to defend the state of Colorado and enforcement of its non-discrimination law in the case is Colorado Solicitor General Eric Reuel Olson. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would grant the request to the U.S. solicitor general to present arguments before the justices on behalf of the Biden administration.

With a 6-3 conservative majority on the court that has recently scrapped the super-precedent guaranteeing the right to abortion, supporters of LGBTQ rights may think the outcome of the case is all but lost, especially amid widespread fears same-sex marriage would be next on the chopping block. After the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against 303 Creative in the lawsuit, the simple action by the Supreme Court to grant review in the lawsuit suggests they are primed to issue a reversal and rule in favor of the company.

Pizer, acknowledging the call to action issued by LGBTQ groups in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, conceded the current Supreme Court issuing the ruling in this case is “a terrifying prospect,” but cautioned the issue isn’t so much the makeup of the court but whether or not justices will continue down the path of abolishing case law.

“I think the question that we’re facing with respect to all of the cases or at least many of the cases that are in front of the court right now, is whether this court is going to continue on this radical sort of wrecking ball to the edifice of settled law and seemingly a goal of setting up whole new structures of what our basic legal principles are going to be. Are we going to have another term of that?” Pizer said. “And if so, that’s terrifying.”

Continue Reading

National

DOJ urged to investigate threats against providers of transition-related care

Boston-area hospital forced to evacuate in August

Published

on

A coalition of major health organizations are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigation threats against providers of gender transition-related medical care for youth, asserting ongoing hostility, including bomb threats and threats of personal violence.

The letter, dated Oct. 3, says medical providers are facing threats for providing “evidence-based health care” to youth, which has meant care for gender transitions, such as hormones, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery. The targets of these threats, the letter says, are children’s hospitals, academic health systems and physicians across the country.

“These coordinated attacks threaten federally protected rights to health care for patients and their families,” the letter says. “The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation, where a few high-profile users on social media share false and misleading information targeting individual physicians and hospitals, resulting in a rapid escalation of threats, harassment and disruption of care across multiple jurisdictions.”

The letter has an organizational signature from American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association, listing no names as representatives. According to the letter, the group represent 270,000 physicians and medical students and CHA represents more than 220 children’s hospitals across the country.

Major health organizations call on the U.S. Justice Department to take action weeks after Boston Children’s Hospital was forced to evacuate over a bomb threat. Authorities later arrested a woman charged with making the after she reportedly phoned in the threat and called the staff “sickos.”

The threats, the letter says, have had significant impact on providers and services to patients, including a new mother being prevented from being with her preterm infant because of a bomb threat; the need for increased security at children’s hospitals; and staffers facing “increased threats via social media – including to their personal accounts.”

A statement from organizations accompanying the letter urges social media companies — including Twitter, TikTok and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram — to “do more to prevent coordinated campaigns of disinformation.”

Jack Resneck, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement accompanying the letter “individuals in all workplaces have the right to a safe environment, out of harm’s way and free of intimidation or reprisal.”

“As physicians, we condemn groups that promote hate-motivated intolerance and toxic misinformation that can lead to grave real-world violence and extremism and jeopardize patients’ health outcomes,” Resneck said.

The Washington Blade has placed a call in with the Justice Department seeking comment on the letter and the American Medical Association seeking comment on why the letter has organizational signatures as opposed to signatures from any of their representatives.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular