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Still no White House comment on Prop 8 lawsuit

Deadline for DOJ to take action is Feb. 28

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to have no comment on the Prop 8 case (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to have no comment on the Prop 8 case (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to stay mum on whether the Obama administration will participate before the Feb. 28 deadline in pending litigation before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.

Asked on Tuesday by NBC News’ Peter Alexander if the White House would “publicly advocate” against Proposition 8 — as well as the right for same-sex couples to have federal benefits precluded under the Defense of Marriage Act — Carney deferred comment to the Justice Department while reiterating the Obama’s previous action against DOMA.

“For comment on specific Supreme Court cases, I would point you to the Department of Justice,” Carney said. “On the issue of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the administration’s position on this is well known, and has been. And that’s the President has determined that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and that his administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts, and the DOJ has participated in the DOMA cases consistent with that position and asked the Supreme Court to resolve the question. So that is the DOMA issue.”

Carney had fewer words in regards in the lawsuit against Prop 8, saying, “On Prop 8, the administration is not a party to that case, and I have nothing for you on that.” Pressed for more information by NBC News, Carney reiterated he has no information.

In 2011, the Obama administration stood down from defending DOMA in court. Since that time, the Justice Department has filed legal briefs against the law and sent Justice Department attorneys to litigate against the statute in oral arguments before various federal courts.

The same isn’t true for Prop 8. While President Obama came out for marriage equality last year — and during his 2008 presidential campaign called Prop 8 “unnecessary” — the administration hasn’t yet taken a position on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, or whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond on Tuesday to the Washington Blade’s request for an update whether the Obama administration will participate in the Prop 8 litigation. Like the White House, the Justice Department has previously stated the administration isn’t a party to the case and is withholding comment.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the California progressive grassroots group known as the Courage Campaign, renewed on Tuesday his call for the Obama administration to speak out against the constitutionality of Prop 8. His group has launched an online petition calling for action, which the organization says has more than 15,000 signatures.

“The time has come for the President to put the weight of his Administration behind the Supreme Court’s consideration of Prop 8,” Jacobs said. “The Justices and the nation need to hear from the Executive Branch that it supports the rulings of the district and appellate courts, stating clearly that President Obama and his Administration officially oppose Prop 8.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments in the Prop 8 lawsuit, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, on March 26, and for DOMA lawsuit, known as Windsor v. United States, on March 27. Under the rules of the court, as pointed out by Prop 8 Trial Tracker, the deadline for the Obama administration to submit a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court against Prop 8 is Feb. 28.

Other LGBT groups — ranging from the Human Rights Campaign to Lambda Legal — have called on the Obama administration to take part in the lawsuit by filing a friend-of-the-court brief against the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and to assert a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. Ted Olson, one of the co-counsels in the Prop 8 case, said intervention from the Obama administration would have “great effect” in the lawsuit.

Carney has repeatedly declined to comment on the Prop 8 case. He refused comment when asked by the Washington Blade about it in September, and again days after the Supreme Court in December agreed to take up the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban.

In an interview last month with “Time” Magazine, Obama withheld comment on the Prop 8 case, saying “And I think the Prop 8 case, because the briefs are still being written, I should probably be careful about making any specific comments on it.”

The transcript between NBC News and Carney follows:

NBC News: We hear within the last year that the President says he supports gay marriage. He said at that time that that issue would be worked out at the local level. But given the fact that the Supreme Court has now said that it will hear arguments just two months from now in March, should we expect the President to publicly advocate against Proposition 8, and would he also advocate for same-sex couples to have the right to federal benefits?

Jay Carney: Well, let’s be clear about a couple of things. For comment on specific Supreme Court cases, I would point you to the Department of Justice.  On the issue of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the administration’s position on this is well known, and has been. And that’s the President has determined that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and that his administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts, and the DOJ has participated in the DOMA cases consistent with that position and asked the Supreme Court to resolve the question. So that is the DOMA issue. On Prop 8, the administration is not a party to that case, and I have nothing for you on that.

NBC News: Whether he would seek out —

Carney: Again, I have nothing for you on that.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Title IX protections blocked in six more states

Ruling applies to Va.

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(Bigstock photo)

BY McKENNA HORSLEY | A federal judge has blocked new Title IX rules, including those aimed at protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination in K-12 schools, and sided with Republican attorneys general in several states — including Kentucky. 

Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Kentucky on Monday issued a ruling siding with Republican Attorney General Russell Coleman and his counterparts in five other states. The ruling prevents the U.S. Department of Education from “implementing, enacting, enforcing, or taking any action to enforce the Final Rule, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance,” which was set to begin Aug. 1. 

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman (Kentucky Lantern photo by Mathew Mueller)

Coleman and the GOP attorneys general filed the lawsuit in April. At the time, they argued the Department of Education “used rulemaking power to convert a law designed to equalize opportunities for both sexes into a far broader regime of its own making” with the new Title IX regulations. 

Reeves limited the injunction to the plaintiff states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Biden administration introduced the rules to “build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming, and respect their rights,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. The rules also would have rolled back Trump administration changes that narrowly defined sexual harassment and directed schools to conduct live hearings, allowing those who were accused of sexual harassment or assault to cross-examine their accusers.

President Joe Biden with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

In their complaint, the state attorneys general said that under the Biden rule, “Men who identify as women will, among other things, have the right to compete within programs and activities that Congress made available to women so they can fairly and fully pursue academic and athletic excellence — turning Title IX’s protections on their head … And anyone who expresses disagreement with this new status quo risks Title IX discipline for prohibited harassment.” 

Established in 1972, Title IX was created to prevent “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” according to the Department of Education.

Reeves wrote in his opinion that “the Department of Education seeks to derail deeply rooted law” created by the implementation of Title IX. 

“At bottom, the department would turn Title IX on its head by redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’ But ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ do not mean the same thing,” he wrote. “The department’s interpretation conflicts with the plain language of Title IX and therefore exceeds its authority to promulgate regulations under that statute.” 

In a press release, Coleman’s office said Monday that schools that would fail to comply with the new rules would risk losing federal funding. Citing the Department of Education, the office said Kentucky’s public and private schools received a total of $1.1 billion in federal funding last year.

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“As a parent and as attorney general, I joined this effort to protect our women and girls from harm. Today’s ruling recognized the 50-plus years of educational opportunities Title IX has created for students and athletes,” Coleman said in the press release. “We’re grateful for the court’s ruling, and we will continue to fight the Biden administration’s attempts to rip away protections to advance its political agenda.”

A spokesperson for the department said it was reviewing the ruling.

“Title IX guarantees that no person experience sex discrimination in a federally-funded educational environment,” the spokesperson added. “The department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee. The department stands by the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student.”

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McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, W.Va., and Frankfort, Ky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.

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The preceding story was previously published by the Kentucky Lantern and is republished with permission.

The Kentucky Lantern is an independent, nonpartisan, free news service based in Frankfort a short walk from the Capitol, but all of Kentucky is our beat.

We focus on how decisions made in the marble halls of power ripple through the lives of Kentuckians. We bring attention to injustices and hold institutions and officials accountable. We tell the stories of Kentuckians who are making a difference and shine a light on what’s working. Our journalism is aimed at building a fairer, healthier Kentucky for all. 

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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The White House

Press secretary reaffirms the administration’s commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights

Karine Jean-Pierre also highlighted mental health efforts

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre began her briefing with reporters on Monday by honoring Pride Month as a time to “reflect on the progress we have made in pursuit of equality, justice, inclusion” and “recommit ourselves to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights at home and around the world.”

She said that while the Biden-Harris administration has taken “historic action” to expand freedoms and protections for the community “since day one,” state legislatures last year filed more than 600 anti-LGBTQ bills, which disproportionately target transgender youth.

Not only are conservative state lawmakers potentially on track to surpass that number in 2024, but Republican members of Congress along with the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, have pledged their support for at least a dozen anti-LGBTQ policies at the federal level.

Jean-Pierre said this administration “is going to continue to speak out and stand up against these attacks,” adding, “as President Biden says, these young [transgender and queer] people are some of the bravest people he knows, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves.”

The press secretary concluded her opener by discussing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides a “line dedicated to serving LGBTQI+ young people that can be reached by dialing nine eight and pressing three.”

Afterwards, when fielding questions from reporters, Jean-Pierre noted how many of the challenges facing LGBTQ youth have dovetailed with the ongoing mental health crisis in America.

She also addressed a ruling on Monday that blocked the administration’s newly passed LGBTQ-inclusive Title IX rules, which clarify that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is covered by the statute’s language barring sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal assistance.

A Trump-appointed judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana had issued an injunction against the regulations on Thursday, with a handful of Republican state attorneys general promising more legal challenges.

Declining to address specific legal questions that she noted are best directed to the Justice Department, Jean-Pierre stressed the need for students to feel safe and to be treated equally.

“That is why the protections are all about making sure students have equal rights restored,” she said.

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National

63% of LGBTQ people have faced employment discrimination: report

Finding shows majority ‘don’t feel included and welcomed at work’

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A majority of LGBTQ+ workers have experienced discrimination, according to a new study.

A newly released report on the findings of a survey of 2,000 people in the U.S. who identify as LGBTQ says 63 percent of respondents have faced workplace discrimination in their career, 45 percent reported being “passed over” for a promotion due to their LGBTQ status, and 30 percent avoid “coming out” at work due to fear of discrimination.

The report, called “Unequal Opportunities: LGBTQ+ Discrimination In The Workplace,” was conducted by EduBirdie, a company that provides s professional essay writing service for students.

“The research shows basic acceptance remains elusive,” a statement released by the company says. “Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ people are  concerned they will face discrimination if they come out at work, while 1 in 4 fear for their safety,” the statement says. “Alarmingly, 2 in 5 have had their orientation or identity disclosed without consent.”

Avery Morgan, an EduBirdie official, says in the statement, “Despite progress in LGBTQ+ human rights, society stigma persists. Our findings show 70% of LGBTQ+ people feel lonely, misunderstood, marginalized, or excluded at work, and 59% believe their sexual orientation or gender identity has hindered their careers.”

According to Morgan, “One of the biggest challenges businesses should be aware of is avoiding tokenism and appearing inauthentic in their actions. Employers must be genuine with their decisions to bring a more diverse workforce into the organization.”

The report includes these additional findings:

• 44% of LGBTQ people responding to the survey said they have quit a job due to lack of acceptance.

• 15% reported facing discrimination “going unaddressed” by their employer.

• 21% “choose not to report incidents that occur at work.”

• 44% of LGBTQ+ workers feel their company is bad at raising awareness about their struggles.

• Half of LGBTQ+ people change their appearance, voice, or mannerisms to fit in at work.

• 56% of LGBTQ+ people would be more comfortable coming out at work if they had a more senior role.

At least 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The EduBirdie report does not show which states participants of the survey are from. EduBirdie spokesperson Anna Maglysh told the Washington Blade the survey was conducted anonymously to protect the privacy of participants.

The full report can be accessed here.

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