Obama: "Prepared to Implement"
BY Kerry Eleveld
December 22 2010 3:35 AM ET
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is taking the implementation manual for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with him on vacation, President Obama told The Advocate during a wide-ranging interview late Tuesday afternoon — the first one-on-one interview of his presidency with an LGBT news outlet.
“My strong sense is [implementation] is a matter of months,” Obama said from the Oval Office. “Absolutely not years.”
The president added that he has also broached the topic with Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, and that “he’s going to make it work.” Amos has been the most outspoken critic of repeal among the military’s service chiefs.
Obama also said that he is “incredibly proud” of following through on repealing the 1993 law and recalled a pledge he made to a service member while working a rope line in Afghanistan just a few weeks ago.
“A young woman in uniform was shaking my hand — it was a big crowd — she hugged me and she whispered in my ear, ‘Get ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ done.’ And I said to her, ‘I promise you I will.’”
On the question of marriage equality, the president said his “attitudes are evolving.”
“Like a lot of people, I'm wrestling with this,” he said. "I've wrestled with the fact that marriage traditionally has had a different connotation. But I also have a lot of very close friends who are married gay or lesbian couples.”
The president also signaled that he and his lawyers are reviewing “a range of options” when it comes to the administration’s responsibility to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, especially since repealing it over the next two years will be a nonstarter with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“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,” Obama said, drawing a comparison with repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“That may not be possible in DOMA’s case,” he added. “That’s something that I think we have to strategize on over the next several months.”
Read the full interview here:
The Advocate: Mr. President, you’re on the verge of signing legislation that is arguably one of the greatest advances for LGBT civil rights. What does it mean to you personally? And if you were to put it on a continuum of your accomplishments as president, where do you think it will rank in the history books?
President Barack Obama: I am incredibly proud. And part of the reason I’m proud is because this is the culmination of a strategy that began the first week I was in office. When I met with [Secretary of Defense] Bob Gates and I met with Admiral Mullen, I said to them, “I have a job as commander in chief in making sure that we have the best military in the world and that we’re taking care of our folks who make such enormous sacrifices for our safety. I also have an obligation as president to make sure that all Americans have the capacity to serve, and I think ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is wrong. So I want you guys to understand that I want to work with the Pentagon, I want to figure out how to do this right, but I intend to have this policy.”
And to have been able to work through all the complications of that, arrive at a point where the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both of whom were appointed under Republican presidents, were willing to publicly testify and advocate for this repeal; to have engineered an attitudinal study that vindicated my strong belief that people in the military care about how somebody does their job, not their sexual orientation ...