WASHINGTON — Confronted with claims that members of the LGBT community are being discriminated against while President Obama continues to oppose signing a proposed executive order to ban some of that discrimination, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded bluntly Wednesday: "We understand that."
Since April 2011, Obama administration officials have said that Obama will not be signing an executive order to ban anti-LGBT discrimination against employees of and jobs applicants to federal contractors. Those employers represent about 20% of all private-employer jobs in the country.
Administration officials have said instead that their focus is on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would ban sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination or most private employers in the country. Carney noted a Senate committee's passage of the bill on Wednesday as evidence of progress on the legislation.
The administration has held this position even as it enforces President Bill Clinton's executive order that bans anti-gay discrimination in the federal workforce and President Lyndon Johnson's executive order that bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin among federal contractors.
On Wednesday, however, NBC News' Kristen Welker questioned Carney about the impact of the administration's inaction, prompting a rather blunt response.
Welker: "People who support the executive order and this legislation would say that in the meantime, while this is going through Congress —
Carney: "I understand and I, Kristen —"
Welker: "— members of the LGBT community are being discriminated against."
Carney: "I know you've been here when I've answered this question a half-dozen or a dozen times. We understand that, and we've had the position we've had."