PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: Thanks, Mr. President. Merry Christmas.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Merry Christmas.
TAPPER: I have a couple of questions about “don’t ask/don’t tell.” First of all, congratulations. What was your conversation like with Marine Commandant Amos when he expressed to you his concerns, and yet he said that he would abide by whatever — whatever the ruling was? Can you understand why he had the position he did? And then, on the other hand, is it intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country, but they should not be able to marry the people they love?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I don’t want to go into detail about conversations in the Oval Office with my service chiefs. Jim Amos expressed the same concerns to me privately that he expressed publicly during his testimony. He said that there could be disruptions as a consequence of this. And what I said to him was that I was confident, looking at the history of the military with respect to racial integration, with respect to the inclusion of women in our armed forces, that that could be managed, and that was confirmed by the attitudinal studies that was done prior to this vote.
And what he assured me of — and what all the service chiefs have assured me of — is that, regardless of their concerns about disruptions, they were confident that they could implement this policy without it affecting our military cohesion and good discipline and readiness. And I take them at their word. And I’ve spoken to them since the vote took place, and they have all said that we are going to implement this smartly and swiftly, and they are confident that it will not have an effect on our military effectiveness. So I’m very heartened by that.
And I want to, again, give Bob Gates and Admiral Mullen enormous credit for having guided this process through in a way that preserves our primary responsibility to keep America safe and, at the same time, allows us to live up to our values.
Now, with respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, you know, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions, and they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.
At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think — and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that, from their perspective, it is not enough. And I think this is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.
TAPPER: But the military does not recognize civil unions, right?
OBAMA: I understand. And — and as I said, this is going to be an issue that is not unique to the military. This is an issue that extends to all of our society, and I think we’re all going to have to have a conversation about it.