At today’s press briefing, Jay Carney was asked about the status of the executive order that would bar discrimination against LGBTs by federal contractors. This came up because on Wednesday oil conglomerate (and federal contract0r) ExxonMobil held its shareholder meeting, and a vote on LGBT non-discrimination protections was rejected strongly, 80% to 20%. It’s notable that Mobil led on this issue as one of the first companies to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy — after the merger, Exxon rescinded that policy, along with the benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees.
Carney was left to say that the President still can’t manage to get a pen in his hand and sign an executive order, but that he might talk to ExxonMobil about its discriminatory practices, based on the promise President Obama made, saying he “was committed to directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community” about non-discrimination policies. From the White House official transcript of today’s briefing:
Q: The other thing I want to ask you about is, there was a vote yesterday among Exxon Mobil shareholders to include LGBT non-discrimination protections for its more than 80,000 workers that work at the corporation. The shareholders voted down that proposal but it’s still possible for the board to accept it without the shareholders taking action. Back in April, when you talked about the executive order not happening at this time, you said that the administration was committed to directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community from major corporations to contractors to small businesses, and raising public awareness about the human and financial cost of discrimination in the workforce. Following up with these words, will the administration call on Exxon Mobil to adopt that non-discrimination policy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today. And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.
Q: Has the administration communicated — any communications at all with Exxon Mobil?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had. Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the President supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.
Q: In the past year — the past decade, Exxon Mobil has taken more than $1 billion in federal contracts. In the wake of this vote, will the administration revisit the idea of issuing that executive order, barring federal contractors from taking money if they don’t have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time. We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.
Q: How can the legislative avenue be right at this time when Republicans control Congress? How will that legislation get through the Republican-controlled Congress?
MR. CARNEY: Well, because it’s the right thing to do.
It’s not like the President can’t walk and chew gum at the same time — the EO can be in place, positively affecting hundreds of thousands of LGBTs afraid of coming out in the workplace, for instance — while a legislative solution is worked on.