Obama: "Prepared to Implement"

President Obama spoke with The Advocate in a wide-ranging interview.

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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