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White House still withholding ENDA executive order

Carney says administration will leave issue to Congress

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

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that President Obama is not currently planning to revisit the idea of issuing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers at the start of his second term.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney reiterated that the administration prefers a legislative solution to the problem — passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — similar to the process that led to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Our position on that hasn’t changed,” Carney said. “We point to, as you and I have discussed, the process that led to the effective repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a model for the way to approach these issues. I don’t have any updates for you on our approach.”

Carney reiterated Obama’s support for ENDA while noting that the proposed executive order does not provide expansive protections that would be afforded under the legislation.

“The president supports an inclusive ENDA that would provide lasting and comprehensive protections for LGBT people across the country regardless of whether they happen to work for a government contractor, and we look forward to continuing to support that process and that legislation,” Carney said.

In April, the White House announced it wouldn’t issue an executive order at this time requiring federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Amid the speculation President Obama was holding off on the order until after the election, LGBT advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Work renewed calls for the directive. Over the weekend, prominent gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elemendorf was quoted by lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb as saying Obama “needs to do it in the first six months of the year.”

Asked whether his remarks rule out the possibility of the order within the first six months of next year, Carney said he isn’t “speculating on a hypothetical situation.”

“I would simply point to what our position has been and the avenue that we believe is the best to pursue broad-based protections for LGBT people,” Carney added.

Pressed on the difficulties of passing ENDA in a Republican-controlled House, Carney replied, “Many people said just that, even though it was in the prior Congress, about repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We believe that the country has moved dramatically on issues like this, and that this president is committed to civil rights and to building on protections that are necessary for LGBT people as he is for all Americans.”

Under further questioning, Carney had no comment on whether Obama has met with victims of anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. Obama has met with Kylar Broadus, a transgender advocate who testified before the Senate about the workplace discrimination he faced at a major financial institution.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, issued a statement to the Blade in response to the exchange with Carney and expressed continued optimism that Obama would issue the order.

“I share Steve Elmendorf’s optimism that the president will sign the executive order during the first part of 2013 because the Obama administration has built such a strong record of taking executive actions for LGBT fairness,” Almeida said. “Freedom to Work is among the organizations that believe the president should sign the order right away, and we’re optimistic he will sign it very soon.”

Almeida reiterated his call for a Senate vote on ENDA regardless of whether it’s short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and made a new call for Obama to enumerate the need to pass the legislation as part of the upcoming State of the Union Address.

“The State of the Union Address would be a great opportunity for such a call to action, and it would give Majority Leader Reid the opportunity to demonstrate through his actions that he can provide stronger leadership than Speaker Boehner,” Almeida said.

A transcript of the exchange between the Washington Blade and Carney follows:

Washington Blade: Jay, I want to go back to something we haven’t talked about for a while. There’s been a renewed call for President Obama to issue that executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. Over the weekend, Steve Elemendorf, one of the president’s supporters during the election, said it needs to happen within the first six months of next year. Will President Obama revisit this idea as he begins his second term?

Jay Carney: Our position on that hasn’t changed. We point to, as you and I have discussed, the process that led to the effective repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a model for the way to approach these issues. I don’t have any updates for you on our approach. The president supports an inclusive-ENDA that would provide lasting and comprehensive protections for LGBT people across the country regardless of whether they happen to work for a government contractor, and we look forward to continuing to support that process and that legislation.

Blade: So that rules out the possibility of the order within the first six months of next year?

Carney: Again, I’m not speculating on a hypothetical situation. I would simply point to what our position has been and the avenue that we believe is the best to pursue broad-based protections for LGBT people.

Blade: Given that Republicans still control Congress after Election Day, isn’t leaving this up to the legislative process condemn LGBT people to lack of workplace non-discrimination protections for at least two years?

Carney: Many people said just that, even though it was in the prior Congress, about repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We believe that the country has moved dramatically on issues like this, and that this president is committed to civil rights and to building on protections that are necessary for LGBT people as he is for all Americans.

Blade: One last question.

Carney: I’ve given about all I can give.

Blade: President Obama said in May when he endorsed marriage equality that he spoken with service members who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and with same-sex couples looking to be married. Has he ever spoken to a victim of LGBT workplace discrimination?

Carney: I don’t know that he has or hasn’t. I just don’t have a conversation to read out to you.

Blade: Can you get back to me on that?

Carney: I’m not going to ask him about every conversation he’s had.

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. brian

    December 6, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Yikes! Bad day, Jay Scrooge? Someone please bring Jay a hot toddie– with some good cheer!

    Let’s hope the WH staff doesn’t think that a dismissive, almost contemptuous response to the Blade serves our president well.

    First, DADT repeal is an ahistorical example in this instance. Jay ought to be reminded (gently, puh-leeze) that 1993’s DADT specifically prevented future presidents from issuing an EO to repeal it. President Obama could not have repealed DADT by EO had he wanted to.

    Also, is Carney seriously suggesting– as was the situation with DADT repeal– we have to wait until a Democratic president has an overwhelming majority in BOTH the Senate and the House– during a lame duck session, no less– to get full ENDA passage?

    Nonsense. It doesn’t even make crassly expedient political sense. That could be a 10, 20, or 30-year wait.

    And what is it about the tacit complicity of a president in federally subsidized anti-LGBT workplace discrimination that Jay Carney does not understand?

    Fact is that real LGBT people are suffering very real employment discrimination– *right now*– at the hands of contractors who are aided and enabled in their discriminatory practices by their federal government benefactors. That is the same said federal government whose top executive official is President Barack Obama.

    If the President of the United States won’t stand against discrimination, what evidence does his spokesperson have to think members of Congress– both Dems and GOPs– won’t simply follow the president’ bad example?

    Just as damaging for the president is Carney’s not credible, implied political calculus. It very much besmirches an attribute of the president’s well-known and admired ‘brand’ among voters and legislators alike.

    This is a president who has rightly touted his ability to compromise, to move the ball forward– and especially, to NOT let a *current good* fall victim to a *future perfect*.

    Sure, the Prez has fought his last personal campaign. However, President Obama does have the unique opportunity to lead on this issue– right now. An Obama EO can be framed to set a courageous example of non-discrimination for all employers. And– as part of an overall moral-high-ground effort, that will strengthen, not weaken, the efforts of our allies on the Hill to get full ENDA passage.

    A number of good presidents have ‘coasted’ after their re-election. But the great ones of history never stopped trying to improve their record.

    • Michael Bedwell

      December 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      While, of course, Obama could not have “repealed” DADT personally in ANY way, federal law 10 United States Code 12305, the denials of a few shills to the contrary, unequivocally empowered him to, despite ANY law, freeze discharges in the name of national security, Had he shown that courage, some 800 more gay and lesbian service members would not have been needlessly and cold-bloodedly thrown out and into unemployment lines while legislation and “implementation” proceeded.

  2. Chris Sanders

    December 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Keep pushing for it and sign the petition to make your wishes known http://www.wh.gov/9ALQ.

  3. Patrick Howell

    December 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    We've been duped. Shame on us.

  4. Stephen Clark

    December 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    "[T]he process that led to the effective repeal of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'" included, as its most critical component, Democratic supermajorities controlling both houses of Congress. How, pray tell, does the administration anticipate following that "model"?

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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