White House LGBT Exec Order debacle: One week later, still mired in controversy

A week ago, the White House announced that the President wouldn’t be signing the LGBT non-discrimination Executive Order. We just cross-posted at AMERICAblog Gay, but wanted to give everyone the update. Because, the fallout continues. I have to imagine that the political geniuses on the campaign and at the White House figured that this would slide by. After all, we’re now smack in the middle of the campaign. Their opponent, Mitt Romney, has been burnishing his anti-gay credentials, including an endorsement from the race-baiters at NOM. Surely, they must have calculated, this will be a mere bump in the road.

Wrong — like so many calculations made by Team Obama, especially when it comes to the LGBT community.

In Roll Call, “The newspaper of Capitol Hill Since 1955″ (sub. req.), Rep. Jared Polis took a whack at the White House:

“Without a Congress that’s willing to pass [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], I wish the president was a little more aggressive to pursue nondiscrimination,” openly gay Rep. Jared Polis said in a brief interview Monday.

The Colorado Democrat, a leader in the LGBT Equality Caucus, said Obama made a strategic misstep last week when he announced he wanted Congress to move on enacting a nondiscrimination policy for all workers rather than issue an
executive order that could protect employees working for federal contractors. With a Republican-led House and a Congress now focused on the elections, the chances of passing a gay-rights-oriented bill this year are dim at best. And the prospects could remain equally grim if Democrats fail to win back control of the House in November.

“I was disappointed they haven’t reached out yet,” Polis said, noting that he had not spoken with anyone in the administration sincelast week’s announcement. “They certainly have a lot of explaining to do in the LGBT community.”

They’re not explaining it well at all.

Watch this exchange between White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson.

Okay. So, now, they want to do ENDA legislatively – and it’s like DADT? The only thing like DADT is the way Carney is obfuscating, just like Gibbs did when he got DADT questions.

Speaking of DADT, Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner has an analysis pointing out four reasons why the contractor executive order is not like DADT:

Asked if the administration misjudged the response from Obama’s supporters to the decision not to pursue the executive order, Carney defended the decision as “the right approach.”

He said, “The president believes that, in this case, the right approach is to try and build support for ENDA. I think that a good example, again, is to look at the approach that was taken by this administration in dealing with his commitment to repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and working with Congress and working with the Pentagon to make sure that that came to pass. There was criticism at the time that we weren’t taking the right approach. In the end, I think, it has been shown to have been the right approach and to have been an effective approach in building support and ensuring that in its implementation … that the implementation itself has been extremely effective.”

There are four major distinctions between what happened surrounding DADT repeal and what is going on with the administration’s actions to advance LGBT workplace protections, distinctions thus far ignored by the White House.

Geidner’s four distinctions, all backed up with supporting info., are:

First, the control of Congress was in the Democrats’ hands in the 111th Congress.

Second, although a formal moratorium on DADT discharges was not put in place prior to DADT repeal, the administration did take interim steps to lessen discrimination while awaiting legislative action on the repeal.

Third, unlike with DADT repeal, the relevant agencies appear to be fully on board with the executive action being sought here.

Fourth, unlike the DADT discharge change, the additional effects of the proposed executive order being sought by advocates with regards to workplace discrimination have impact beyond that which would be achieved by ENDA.

Kinda demolishes the White House arguments.

Yesterday, Mike Signorile wrote a great post over at Huffington, providing some context for what the White House decision means politically and for the LGBT movement:

The problem for the campaign is that the White House itself brought this issue to everyone’s attention by calling the meeting of LGBT activists, inspiring reports of a “rift” with gays where there previously wasn’t one, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon, as activists now have the support of LGBT people across the country who are suddenly focusing in on this issue.

One thing that’s being asked is how gay leaders allowed this to happen. Paul Yandura, a gay former Clinton aide, says the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) gave the administration a pass, with HRC sitting on its polling on the issue when it should have released it publicly months ago, and NGLTF not even sending out a press release right after the meeting to criticize the president.

A larger problem is that HRC endorsed the president a year ago, and all the group appears to have gotten in return was his presence as a speaker at their annual dinner. That helps them sell lots of tickets, but doesn’t do much in attaining tangible rights. Had HRC not endorsed Obama until now, they could have told the White House, “This is what we want for our endorsement.”

The gay groups worried about losing access not only do a disservice to the LGBT movement in this regard, but by not publicly making it clear that refusing to sign the order will be a bigger headache for the president than that imagined during any “panic,” they badly serve the president, as well.

This should never have been a controversy. The White House needs to fix it — fast.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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