Transcript: Robin Roberts ABC News Interview With President Obama

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well-- well-- well, what I'm saying is is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place-- at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing. And-- you know, one of the things that I'd like to see is-- that a conversation continue in a respectful way.

I think it's important to recognize that-- folks-- who-- feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as-- between a man and a woman-- many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They're coming at it because they care about families. And-- they-- they have a different understanding, in terms of-- you know, what the word "marriage" should mean. And I-- a bunch of 'em are friends of mine-- you know, pastors and-- you know, people who-- I deeply respect.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Especially in the Black community.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely.

ROBIN ROBERTS: And it's very-- a difficult conversation to have.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely. But-- but I think it's important for me-- to say to them that as much as I respect 'em, as much as I understand where they're comin' from-- when I meet gay and lesbian couples, when I meet same-sex couples, and I see-- how caring they are, how much love they have in their hearts-- how they're takin' care of their kids. When I hear from them the pain they feel that somehow they are still considered-- less than full citizens when it comes to-- their legal rights-- then-- for me, I think it-- it just has tipped the scales in that direction.

And-- you know, one of the things that you see in-- a state like New York that-- ended up-- legalizing same-sex marriages-- was I thought they did a good job in engaging the religious community. Making it absolutely clear that what we're talking about are civil marriages and civil laws.

That they're re-- re-- respectful of religious liberty, that-- you know, churches and other faith institutions-- are still gonna be able to make determinations about what they're sacraments are-- what they recognize. But from the perspective of-- of the law and perspective of the state-- I think it's important-- to say that in this country we've always been about-- fairness. And-- and treatin' everybody-- as equals. Or at least that's been our aspiration. And I think-- that applies here, as well.

ROBIN ROBERTS: So if you were the governor of New York or legislator in North Carolina, you would not be opposed? You would vote for legalizing same-sex marriage?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I would. And-- and that's-- that's part of the-- the evolution that I went through. I-- I asked myself-- right after that New York vote took place, if I had been a state senator, which I was for a time-- how would I have voted? And I had to admit to myself, "You know what? I think that-- I would have voted yes." It would have been hard for me, knowing-- all the friends and family-- that-- are gays or lesbians, that for me to say to them, you know, "I voted to oppose you having-- the same kind of rights-- and responsibilities-- that I have."

And-- you know, it's interesting. Some of this is also generational. You know, when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that-- I have terrible policies on the-- the economy or on foreign policy. But are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know-- sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They're much more comfortable with it.

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