Obama: "Prepared to Implement"

BY Kerry Eleveld

December 22 2010 3:35 AM ET

Right. Will you use your bully pulpit to lobby for things like that?
Yes, well ...

Because we didn't hear from you much on ENDA. We didn't hear from you much on DOMA.
Well, that's because we were focusing on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

OK.
And I’ve got a few other things on my plate.

I’ve heard of some of those.
Yes,
exactly. So Congress is a complicated place with 535 people that you
have to deal with in order to get anything done. And my belief was when I
first came in, and it continues to be, that by getting “don’t ask,
don’t tell” done, we sent a clear message about the direction, the
trajectory of this country in favor of equality for LGBT persons. The
next step I think would be legislatively to look at issues like DOMA and
ENDA. And I’m going to continue to ...

But I think people ...
... strongly support them.

I think people wonder what can happen since legislatively that’s probably not going to happen.
I understand, Kerry. But, Kerry, I’m trying to answer your question, and you keep on coming back at me.

OK, sorry.
So
what I’m saying is that we’re probably not going — realistically, we’re
probably not going to get those done in the next two years unless we see
a substantial shift in attitudes within the Republican caucus.

As
I said, though, that outside of legislative circles, attitudes are
changing rapidly. They're changing in our culture. They’re changing in
our workplaces. One of the most important things I can do as president
is to continually speak out about why it’s important to treat everyone
as our brothers and sisters, as fellow Americans, as citizens.

And
looking for constant opportunities to do that I think is going to be
critically important because that helps set the tone and changes the
ground beneath the feet of legislators so that they start feeling like,
gosh, maybe we are behind the times here and we need to start moving
forward. And so you chip away at these attitudes. It also continues to
require effective advocacy from groups on the outside.

So I guess
my general answer to your question is when it comes to legislation, it
took us two years to get “don’t ask, don’t tell” done. I know that there
are a whole bunch of folks who thought we could have gotten it done in
two months. There were people who thought with a stroke of a pen it
could get done. That, in fact, was not the case. But it got done.

And
I’m confident that these other issues will get done. But what they
require is a systematic strategy and constant pressure and a continuing
change in attitudes. And as I said, there are things that we can
continue to do administratively that I think will send a message that
the federal government, as an employer, is going to constantly look for
opportunities to make sure that we’re eliminating discrimination.

What about not defending DOMA?

As
I said before, I have a whole bunch of really smart lawyers who are
looking at a whole range of options. My preference wherever possible is
to get things done legislatively because I think it — it gains a
legitimacy, even among people who don’t like the change, that is
valuable.

So with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I have such great
confidence in the effective implementation of this law because it was
repealed. We would have gotten to the same place if the court order had
made it happen, but I think it would have engendered resistance. So I’m
always looking for a way to get it done, if possible, through our elected
representatives. That may not be possible in DOMA’s case. That's
something that I think we have to strategize on over the next several
months.

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