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No updates from Carney on ENDA directive, despite pressure

White House insists legislation ‘would have the greatest benefit’ for LGBT workers

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Jay Carney, White House, gay news, Washington Blade
White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, Gay News, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no updates on an ENDA executive order. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

Despite a letter this week signed by nearly 200 congressional Democrats calling on President Obama to take administrative action on behalf of LGBT workers, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no updates Wednesday on a potential executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney reiterated the position he’s stated numerous times that Obama is focused on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act through Congress as a means to protect LGBT workers.

“The fact is that legislation, which has moved in the Senate, if it were to be passed by the full Congress and signed into law would have the greatest benefit when it comes to ensuring the rights of LGBT individuals,” Carney said.

A partial transcript follows:

Washington Blade: Thanks, Jay. The president yesterday received a letter from nearly 200 members of Congress — right up to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer — calling on him to “immediately act” by signing non-discrimination executive order for LGBT workers. You said before this issue is best left to Congress, but if this many lawmakers are lobbing back to the president, has he misjudged the situation?

Jay Carney: Chris, we continue to support ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and I don’t have any update for you on possible executive orders. The fact is that legislation, which has moved in the Senate, if it were to be passed by the full Congress and signed into law would have the greatest benefit when it comes to ensuring the rights of LGBT individuals. On the issue of — that you ask me about regularly — of an executive order proposed, or speculated about, I just don’t have any updates.

Blade: But what makes you think that legislation should be the only course of action if lawmakers in Congress are saying that the president should issue an executive order as they pursue legislation?

Carney: Again, Chris, I just don’t have any new information to provide to you about our views on this, which we have discussed many times. There is no question, I think, in anyone’s mind that the passage of legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, would provide those protections broadly in a way the EO would not.

And as I’ve said before, opposition to that legislation is contrary to the tide of history and those lawmakers who oppose this will find, in the not too distant future, that they made a grave mistake and that they will regret it.

Blade: One last very important question on this. The letter takes note that “time is of the essence” because after an executive order is signed, full implementation will require a process that last many months, if not longer. Do you deny there’s a limited time for the president to exercise this option before time’s up at the end of his administration?

Carney: Chris, I’m not even sure there’s a question there, but I’ll point you to my previous answer.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge blocks White House from ending Title 42

Advocacy groups say policy further endangered LGBTQ asylum seekers

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The Mexico-U.S. border in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration from terminating Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. The previous White House's policy was to have ended on May 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic was to have ended Monday, but it remains in place after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plans to end it.

The White House last month announced it would terminate Title 42, a policy the previous administration implemented in March 2020.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana on May 20 issued a ruling that prevented the Biden administration from terminating the Trump-era policy. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement announced the Justice Department will appeal the decision, while adding the administration “will continue to enforce the CDC’s 2020 Title 42 public health authority pending the appeal.”

“This means that migrants who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will be subject to expulsion under Title 42, as well as immigration consequences such as removal under Title 8 (of the U.S. Code),” said Jean-Pierre.

Advocacy groups and members of Congress with whom the Washington Blade has spoken since Title 42 took effect say it continues to place LGBTQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups who seek refuge in the U.S. at even more risk.

Oluchi Omeoga, co-director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, last month described Title 42 as a “racist and harmful policy.” ORAM (Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration) Executive Director Steve Roth said Title 42 “put asylum seekers in harm’s way in border towns and prevented them from seeking safety in the United States.”

Title 42 was to have ended less than a month after five members of Congress from California visited two LGBTQ shelters for asylum seekers in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

The Council for Global Equality, which organized the trip, in a tweet after Summerhays issued his ruling described Title 42 as a “catastrophe.”

“The Biden administration cannot breathe a sign of relief until it’s a matter of the past,” said the Council for Global Equality on Saturday. “We remain committed to end Title 42.”

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Russia

U.S. official meets with Brittney Griner

Consular visit took place on May 19

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A mugshot of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. (Russian television screenshot)

A U.S. consular official on May 19 visited detained WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Friday told reporters during a virtual briefing the officer “found her continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances.” The officer met with Griner two days after U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Russian officials had denied consular visits with her three times this month.

“Our message is a clear and simple one,” said Price. “We continue to insist that Russia allow consistent and timely consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees. One-off visits are not sufficient, and we will continue to call on Moscow to uphold its commitments under the Vienna Convention for consistent and timely access as well.”

Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

The State Department has determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. 

A Russian court on May 13 extended her detention for another month. The Women’s National Basketball Players Association, a union that represents WNBA players, has endorsed a petition that urges the Biden administration to “prioritize” Griner’s release.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, on May 14.

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Latin America

U.S. announces more funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Latin America

Jill Biden made announcement on Saturday in Panama

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Former Panamanian first lady Lorena Castillo and UNAIDS in 2017 launched a campaign to fight discrimination against Panamanians with HIV/AIDS. Panama will receive $12.2 million in new PEPFAR funding to further combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Latin America. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

First lady Jill Biden on Saturday announced the U.S. will provide an additional $80.9 million to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Latin America.

Biden during a visit to Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, a shelter for people with HIV/AIDS in Panama City, said the State Department will earmark an additional $80.9 million for President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-funded work in Latin America. A Panamanian activist with whom the Washington Blade spoke said LGBTQ people were among those who met with the first lady during her visit.

Pope Francis visited the shelter in 2019.

“I’m glad we have the opportunity to talk about how the United States and Panama can work together to combat HIV,” said the first lady.

Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson, noted Panama will receive $12.2 million of the $80.9 million in PEPFAR funding.

“This funding, pending Congressional notification, will support expanded HIV/AIDS services and treatment,” said LaRosa.

UNAIDS statistics indicate an estimated 31,000 Panamanians were living with HIV/AIDS in 2020. The first lady’s office notes the country in 2020 had the highest number of “newly notificated cases of HIV/AIDS” in Central America.

The first lady visited Panama as part of a trip that included stops in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The Summit of the Americas will take place next month in Los Angeles. The U.S. Agency for International Development and PEPFAR in April announced they delivered more than 18 million doses of antiretroviral drugs for Ukrainians with HIV/AIDS.

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