Today, President Obama talked about bullying and the Defense of Marriage Act over the course of a 50-minute "Open for Questions" roundtable moderated by Jose Siade from Yahoo Español and featuring Karine Medina from MSN Latino and Gabriel Lerner from AOL Latino and Huff-Post Latino Voices.
MR. LERNER: Mr. President, on the Defense of Marriage Act, also called DOMA, this comes from Kevin in North Carolina. He says: I'm a gay American who fell in love with a foreigner. As you know, due to DOMA, I'm not permitted to sponsor my foreign-born partner for residency. And as a result, we are stuck between a rock and an impossible situation. How do you intend to fix this? Waiting for DOMA to be repealed or struck down in the courts will potentially take years. What do binational couples do in the meantime?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we made a decision that was a very significant decision, based on my assessment of the Constitution, that this administration would not defend DOMA in the federal courts. It's not going to be years before this issue is settled. This is going to be settled fairly soon, because right now we have cases pending in the federal courts.
Administratively, we can't ignore the law. DOMA is still on the books. What we have said is even as we enforce it, we don't support it, we think it's unconstitutional. The position that my administration has taken I think will have a significant influence on the court as it examines the constitutionality of this law. And once that law is struck down -- and I don't know what the ruling will be -- then addressing these binational issues could flow from that decision, potentially.
I can't comment on where the case is going to go. I can only say what I believe, and that is that DOMA doesn't make sense; it’s unfair; I don't think that it meets the demands of our Constitution. And in the meantime, if -- I’ve already said that I’m also supportive of Congress repealing DOMA on it’s own and not waiting for the courts. The likelihood of us being able to get the votes in the House of Representatives for DOMA repeal are very low at this point so, truthfully, the recourse to the courts is probably going to be the best approach.
MR. SIADE: This question comes from Florida: Since bullying is increasing in an alarming way in the U.S., what can be done to avoid further discrimination or bullying within various racial groups, particularly for Hispanic kids in school?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it's a really important question. We actually had the first-ever conference on bullying here in the White House -- because for young people it’s hard enough growing up without also then being subject to constant harassment. And the kind of bullying that we’re seeing now, including using the Internet and new media, can be very oppressive on young people.
So what we’ve tried to do is to provide information and tools to parents, to schools, to communities to push back and fight against these kinds of trends. And a lot of the best work has actually been done by young people themselves who start anti-bullying campaigns in their schools, showing how you have to respect everyone, regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of sexual orientation. And when you get a school environment in which that’s not accepted by young people themselves, where they say we’re not going to tolerate that kind of bullying, that usually ends up making the biggest difference, because kids react to their peer group more than sometimes they do adults.
And what we need to do is make sure that we’re providing tools to schools and to young people to help combat against bullying, and it’s something that we'll continue to work on with local communities and local school districts as well.
MR. LERNER: So you’re going to have a conference on bullying in the White House?
THE PRESIDENT: We already did. We had it -- it was probably four or five months ago. And we brought in non-profit groups, religious leadership, schools, students themselves. And they have now organized conferences regionally, around the country, so that we can prevent this kind of bullying from taking place.
[Photo: President Obama takes questions at a June 29, 2011, news conference in the East Room of the White House. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]