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Amendment Comments Stir Debate

This article shared 3915 times since Wed Feb 18, 2004
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Leading Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry is not necessarily opposed to a constitutional amendment to permanently ban same-sex marriage, he told National Public Radio's All Things Considered Feb. 9.

Kerry was asked: 'I'd like to turn to the subject of gay marriage. The highest court in your home state of Massachusetts has said that same-sex couples do have the right to marry. I know you've said that you oppose gay marriage, but would you support a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a heterosexual union?'

He replied: 'Well, it depends entirely on the language of whether it permits civil union and partnership or not. I'm for civil union. I'm for partnership rights.

'I think what ought to condition this debate is not the term marriage as much as the rights that people are afforded,' Kerry continued. 'Obviously under the Constitution of the United States you need equal protection under the law. And I think equal protection means the rights that go with it. I think the word marriage kind of gets in the way of the whole debate, to be honest with you, because marriage to many people is obviously

KERRY from cover

what is sanctified by a church. It's sacramental. Or by a synagogue or by a mosque or by whatever religious connotation it has. Clearly there's a separation of church and state here. ... Marriage is a separate institution. I think marriage is under the church, between a man and a woman, and I think there's a separate meaning to it.'

Kerry said this holds true even for civil marriages that are not conducted in a house of worship.

'Even for those that aren't, there's still two meanings,' he said. 'I mean, the state picked up the concept [of marriage] afterwards. It's a latecomer to the state.'

The day after the NPR interview, Kerry's campaign said he was talking about amending Massachusetts' constitution not the U.S. Constitution. On Feb. 4, Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court mandated that the state offer regular marriage to same-sex couples by May 17, and some state legislators hope to amend the state constitution to block that ruling.

'Senator Kerry opposes a federal constitutional amendment, he has always opposed a federal constitutional amendment on gay marriage, and if someone listened to an NPR interview and believes otherwise, then he was reacting to a different question, a question about a Massachusetts amendment, not a federal constitutional amendment,' Deputy Campaign Manager Steve Elmendorf said in a telephone call to this reporter.

Several hours later, the campaign e-mailed this reporter multiple copies of a new press release quoting Kerry as saying, 'I remain firmly opposed to any federal amendment on this issue.'

Asked if it would be odd for Kerry to oppose amending the U.S. Constitution but not the Massachusetts Constitution, Elmendorf said: 'The federal Constitution and the state of Massachusetts Constitution are two different constitutions. The state constitutional amendment has not been written—it is a hypothetical—and we're going to wait and see what it is. ... The Constitution of the United States of America is entirely different. He does not think the U.S. Constitution should be tampered with over an issue like this.'

Asked if Kerry thinks the Massachusetts Constitution should be tampered with over an issue like this, Elmendorf said, 'He has not made that decision yet. ... He would consider it.'

NPR spokesperson Laura Gross and All Things Considered host Melissa Block refused to say whether Block had intended to ask Kerry about the U.S. Constitution or the Massachusetts Constitution.

'Melissa Block asked a question and Senator Kerry answered the question the way he interpreted it to be asked,' Gross said. 'That's a little confusing. It doesn't matter what she was asking him one way or the other. That was the question that was asked, and he answered it.'

Despite his opposition to same-sex marriage, Kerry was one of only 14 senators who voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] that passed Congress and was signed into law by Bill Clinton.

DOMA states: 'No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship. ... In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'

Kerry told NPR: 'I opposed it [DOMA] because I thought it was gaybashing on the floor of the United States Senate. It was one of those examples of ideological Republicans trying to drive wedges into the electorate of America, and I objected to the Senate being used for that, even as I still said at the time, 'I don't personally support [gay] marriage as we understand it within the context of religion.''

On Feb. 4, Kerry voiced his disagreement with the Massachusetts ruling which, in addition to mandating legalization of full same-sex marriage, forcefully rejected the notion of civil unions as unconstitutional.

'The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal,' the court said.

Kerry stated: 'I believe the right answer is civil unions. I oppose gay marriage and disagree with the Massachusetts court's decision.'

Edwards and Bush

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was on NBC's Tonight Show last week. Asked about gay marriage by Jay Leno, the No. 2 Dem said he does not oppose such marriages. He said he is against amending the U.S. Constitution, and that he backs the states' rights to decide the issue for their own populations.

'If California chooses to recognize same-sex marriage, that's fine and the federal government ought to honor it,' Edwards said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign last week condemned reports that President George W. Bush, as a way to 'to start the general election campaign on a fresh issue,' is endorsing Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's Federal Marriage Amendment—'a divisive and discriminatory amendment to the Constitution that would ban marriage rights for same-sex couples and could forever invalidate civil unions or other legal protections for same-sex couples and their children,' HRC stated.

This article shared 3915 times since Wed Feb 18, 2004
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