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Carney dismisses questions on ENDA executive order

White House spokesperson says he’s addressed EO issues, reiterates legislative path

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Jay Carney, White House, gay news, Washington Blade
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dodged additional questions about LGBT workplace discrimination (Blade file photo by Michael Key).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dodged additional questions about LGBT workplace discrimination (Blade file photo by Michael Key).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t say on Wednesday why President Obama won’t take administrative action against workplace discrimination at the same time as he pursues a legislative solution to address the issue — prompting a tongue-lashing from one LGBT advocate who said he’ll tweet at the spokesperson additional reading material.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney insisted he’s previously explained why Obama can’t signed an executive order prohibiting LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors while calling for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Without enumerating that explanation, Carney shifted to talking about the bill.

“I think it’s a fair question, but I have answered it,” Carney said. “And one thing I noted recently is that we saw some progress on the legislation, ENDA, in Congress as it was passed out of committee. And the president supports that and welcomes it, and will continue to work with Congress to move forward with that.”

When the Blade pointed out that LGBT discrimination continues to occur — just this month, two transgender people, one who worked for a federal contractor, won damages for discrimination they faced on the job by suing under Title VII — Carney dismissed the conclusion that administrative action is necessary.

“The president opposes discrimination, as you know,” Carney said. “And the president is pursuing a path that he thinks has the best chance of success, which is trying to get Congress to pass ENDA, the legislative action that he supports.”

In additional to signing an executive order, another method of administrative action to institute workplace non-discrimination protections being discussed by LGBT advocates is enforcing Executive Order 11246, which prohibits gender discrimination among federal contractors, in a way that would protect transgender workers as well.

That action would bring enforcement of that executive order into alignment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ruling last year that transgender people are protected under workplace non-discrimination law prohibiting gender discrimination.

It’s unclear whether the Labor Department is enforcing the existing executive order in this way. Buzzfeed reported earlier this month that the White House “forbade” the department from doing so.

Asked about this report, Carney said he no knowledge of it and maintained the administration’s position on the issue is clear.

“I’m not aware of that report,” Carney said. “I think our position is clear. I don’t have any updates on it for you. We support the legislation that has moved forward, importantly, in one house of Congress and we’ll continue to make that support known.”

The White House news briefing took place immediately after Obama met with the House and Senate Democratic caucuses on Capitol Hill. Asked whether Obama brought up moving forward with ENDA at those meetings, Carney said he doesn’t have complete knowledge of what was said.

“I wasn’t in the meetings; I don’t have the full readout,” Carney said. “But the president’s position on this issue is well known. It is one he expresses frequently in his conversations with lawmakers of both parties. And we will continue to push for action on that legislation.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Carney is feigning ignorance over matters of LGBT workplace discrimination in attempt to dodge questions.

“I don’t think Jay Carney is as ignorant as he pretends to be whenever he wants to avoid tough questioning from the Washington Blade and other reporters who rightfully ask about the President’s five-year delay on his written campaign promise to LGBT Americans,” Carney said. “Mr. Carney is being intentionally obtuse and falsely claiming he’s answered questions that he has in fact skillfully ducked for years.”

Almeida said his organization will deliver to Carney via Twitter “a summer reading list” including the story of President Franklin Roosevelt issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race among defense contractors as well as the stories of black leaders like Bayard Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph who urged him to take action.

“If Carney reads that American history during his August vacation, maybe he will regain some sense of shame and stop avoiding important questions about how to give LGBT Americans a fair shot at the American Dream,” Almeida said.

Additionally, Almeida took Carney to task for not answering the question about whether the White House forbade the Labor Department from enforcing the existing executive order to protect transgender workers.

“Numerous federal government employees and national leaders have told us that the White House has blocked what the Labor Department wanted to do last year,” Almeida said. “This issue is going to get even more embarrassing for Labor Secretary Tom Perez as time passes, and I hope he will use his considerable intellect and passion to re-start the debate with the White House senior staff who have been dragging their feet on our pathway toward LGBT workplace opportunity.”

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

Washington Blade: Thanks, Jay. I want to talk about the issue of LGBT workplace discrimination once more. I know when I’ve asked you questions about the White House issuing an executive order to address this issue before, you said that the administration prefers a legislative push of the issue. But can you explain to me why you think they’re mutually exclusive? Can’t the President sign an executive order and then pursue a legislative solution at the same time?

Jay Carney: You know, Chris, I think it’s a fair question, but I have answered it. And one thing I noted recently is that we saw some progress on the legislation, ENDA, in Congress as it was passed out of committee. And the President supports that and welcomes it, and will continue to work with Congress to move forward with that. He continues to think that’s the best approach in addressing these issues.

Blade: Even as this legislative process is underway, discrimination is still happening. In this past month, two transgender victims of discrimination won damages for discrimination based on a job. One was a federal contractor. Doesn’t this continued discrimination demonstrate the need for immediate action from the administration?

Carney: Well, the President opposes discrimination, as you know. And the President is pursuing a path that he thinks has the best chance of success, which is trying to get Congress to pass ENDA, the legislative action that he supports.

Blade: Another idea that’s being talked about is the Labor Department enforcing the existing executive order protecting gender discrimination in a way that also protects transgender workers. There was a report in Buzzfeed earlier this month saying the White House forbade the Labor Department from enforcing that existing executive order in this way. Are you aware of this issue and do you deny —

Carney: I’m not aware of that report. I think our position is clear. I don’t have any updates on it for you. We support the legislation that has moved forward, importantly, in one house of Congress and we’ll continue to make that support known.

Blade: One last question, I swear.

Carney: He should get a seat up in the front row, don’t you think? (Laughter.)

Blade: Did the President, in the meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus, did he encourage lawmakers to move forward on this with senators today?

Carney: I wasn’t in the meetings; I don’t have the full readout. But the President’s position on this issue is well known. It is one he expresses frequently in his conversations with lawmakers of both parties. And we will continue to push for action on that legislation.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. peter rosenstein

    August 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Chris you are doing a great job- keep at it. The rest of us have to keep pressuring the White House to sign that Executive Order.

  2. Travis Rogers

    August 1, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Obama and his lapdog Jay Carney are national embarrassments. They betray LGBT citizens when to comes to workplace protections when they lie and obfuscate the truth. The truth is Obama is a coward who never does anything unless it benefits HIM by lining his pockets and the pockets of his donors. I voted for Obama not because I like him or wanted him as president but because he was the only other viable option. Obama is as much of a Rich, out of touch, douchebag, coward as Romney is. The only difference is Obama knows well enough to serve platitudes to LGBT people in order to get our $$$ and support but when it comes time for ACTION…. The truth of our lives and our struggle for dignity and equality falls on deaf ears.

  3. brian

    August 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    This is back-of-the-hand White House HYPOCRISY writ large.

    And it serves to actively harm LGBT working people right now– providing potential congressional supporters a powerful excuse to continue employment discrimination.

    “If the Prez won’t take the slightest of political risks for his LGBT supporters, why should I?”

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News

Exclusive: Biden briefed on transgender deaths breaking record in 2021

At least 46 people killed in grim milestone

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President Biden was briefed on Nov. 18 on anti-transgender violence the year, a White House official said.

President Biden, in a year when the killings of transgender people are at the highest number in recorded history, has been briefed on the grim milestone of anti-transgender violence, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

A White House official confirmed via email to the Blade on Monday that Biden was briefed Thursday, Nov. 18 on the number of transgender and non-binary people killed in 2021, which was the same week as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

In response to a follow-up inquiry from the Blade on which principals were in attendance at the briefing, the White House official had nothing to share.

At least 46 transgender and non-binary people have been killed, which is the highest number since efforts to record those deaths began. The violence has consistently had a disproportionate impact on transgender women of color.

The Blade first posed the question about whether Biden was briefed on anti-transgender violence to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Nov. 12. At the time, Psaki said she was unsure whether Biden was briefed, but said deaths were “terrible, heartbreaking” to hear.

Biden’s briefing on the anti-transgender violence is consistent with the statement he issued on Saturday recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which decried the deaths of the 46 transgender and non-binary people killed in 2021.

“Each of these lives was precious,” Biden said in the statement. “Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people — disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

Biden, who has called transgender rights “the civil rights issue of our time,” is credited with being a transgender advocate in the White House, having issued policies such as a rollback of former President Trump’s transgender military ban and signing an executive order requiring federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible under the law.

The Biden administration announced in June an interagency task force charged with making the U.S. government as transgender inclusive as possible, which the White House says is ongoing.

The year 2021 reached a new record for anti-transgender murders upon the death of Marquiisha “Quii” Lawrence, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman who was shot and killed in her home in Greenville, S.C.

Biden and other transgender advocates marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance this year with the solemn acknowledgment of the 46 transgender and non-binary people lost in 2021.

Biden as a 2020 presidential candidate highlighted ongoing anti-transgender violence, including its disproportionate impact on transgender people of color. In his comprehensive LGBTQ platform, Biden repeatedly pledged he’d take steps to protect LGBTQ people from violence.

In fact, Biden predicted the killing of transgender people would end if former President Trump were voted out of office, telling attendees at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in 2019: “The fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration.”

Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison and LGBTQ Caucus chair Earl Fowlkes issued a joint statement, saying each of the lives lost “represents a family broken, a friend forever changed, or a community in mourning.”

“Today, we mourn the lives lost due to senseless violence,” Harrison and Fowlkes said. “Tomorrow, we reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to enacting the change necessary to create a future where no one is forced to hide or live in fear.”

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Biden recognizes anti-trans violence on Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 deadliest year on record for transgender people

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President Biden recognized the deaths of 46 people on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

President Biden issued on Saturday a statement recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, noting an estimated 46 transgender and non-binary were recorded as killed in 2021 in a horrific milestone of the most violent year on record for the transgender community.

“This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country — and hundreds more around the world—were killed in horrifying acts of violence,” Biden said. “Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people—disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in response to a question from the Washington Blade last week on whether Biden was briefed on anti-transgender violence reaching a new record in 2021, called the grim milestone “heartbreaking to hear,” but said she was unsure if Biden was briefed on the issue.

The Biden statement implies he was briefed on the deaths because it referenced 2021 being the deadliest year on record with 46 deaths, although the White House hasn’t responded to the Blade’s request to comment on whether he was briefed on the violence.

Biden moved early on during his administration to act on transgender rights, reversing President Trump’s transgender military ban and signing an executive order directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the fullest extent possible.

The Biden administration has announced an ongoing created an interagency task force charged with making the U.S. government as transgender inclusive, which is the White House says is still ongoing.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

November 20, 2021
 Statement by President Biden on Transgender Day of Remembrance
 This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country—and hundreds more around the world—were killed in horrifying acts of violence. Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people—disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls—who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.
 
In spite of our progress strengthening civil rights for LGBTQI+ Americans, too many transgender people still live in fear and face systemic barriers to freedom and equality. To ensure that our government protects the civil rights of transgender Americans, I charged my team with coordinating across the federal government to address the epidemic of violence and advance equality for transgender people. I continue to call on state leaders and lawmakers to combat the disturbing proliferation of discriminatory state legislation targeting transgender people, especially transgender children. As I have said before, these bills are nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation, they are un-American, and they endanger the safety and well-being of our children. I also continue to urge the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act so that all people are able to live free from fear and discrimination.
 
Transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know. But no person should have to be brave just to live in safety and dignity. Today, we remember. Tomorrow—and every day—we must continue to act.
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House resolution introduced to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 deadliest year on record with 47 recorded deaths

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Reps. Marie Newman (left), Pramila Jayapal (center) and Jennifer Wexton have introduced a resolution to recognize the Transgender Day of Remembrance Photos of Newman and Jayapal public domain; Washington Blade photo of Wexton by Michael Key).

On the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a trio of House Democrats have introduced during a year with the highest recorded deaths of transgender and non-binary people a resolution that would officially recognize the annual occasion.

The measure was introduced by Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who are known as vocal transgender advocates and members of the Transgender Equality Task Force, as part of group of 62 members of the U.S. House, according to a statement from the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. The resolution would commemorate Nov. 20 as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Newman, who’s been open about having a young transgender daughter, said in a statement violence against transgender Americans, particularly Black and Brown transgender women, has become a “national epidemic.”

“With this resolution, we are not only recognizing the far too many souls lost to violence this year but also honoring their memory with a commitment to fight against anti-trans hate, rhetoric and violence,” Newman said. “Transgender Americans face hateful and disgusting attacks — verbal and physical — every single day just for simply existing in the world, and each of us has a fundamental obligation to speak out against it.”

The Transgender Day of Remembrance comes with 2021 having the highest number of recorded killings of transgender and non-binary people in a single year. A total of 47 deaths have been recorded, according to the LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

Wexton said in a statement the ongoing deaths of transgender people are “cannot be overlooked or ignored,” calling 2021 the deadliest year on record.

“Our trans friends and neighbors face greater threats of violence, bullying, and discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives, and they deserve justice and equality,” Wexton said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, under questioning from the Washington Blade last week on whether President Biden was briefed on 2021 being the deadliest year on record for transgender people, said the grim milestone is “terrible and heartbreaking” although she said she was unsure on whether Biden was briefed.

The White House hasn’t responded with any update on whether or not Biden has been briefed as of the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Jayapal, who in addition to being a transgender advocate has been the face of the $1.75 trillions Build Back Better plan approved recently in the House, said in a statement the names of each of the transgender dead should be spoken aloud, the action should follow.

“Our resolution acknowledges this truth as we continue our dedicated work to strengthen hate crime laws, pass the Equality Act through the Senate, and ensure that every transgender person is able to live freely as themselves,” Jayapal said.

An LGBTQ Equality Caucus spokesperson didn’t respond Friday to the Blade’s request to comment on whether House leadership gave the sponsors of the legislation any indication the resolution would obtain a floor vote.

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