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Kerry on the Record: The Gay Marriage Flip-Flop

Friday, 27 February 2004 12:00 AM

Part 1:

When it comes to the gay marriage issue, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., finds himself in a delicate balancing act – trying to avoid appearing bigoted while catering to heterosexual and religious voters.

With his own home state of Massachusetts coming up on a court-imposed two and one-half year window (starting May 17) in which gay couples can legally marry, Kerry says that he would support a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit gay marriage – so long as, while outlawing gay marriage, it also ensured that same-sex couples have access to all legal rights that married couples receive.

A good moderate position that passes the balancing act test, but that is what Kerry says now; what about then – Kerry on the record?

In 1996, a less compromising Kerry gave an impassioned 10-minute speech on the Senate floor against an effort in Congress to define marriage only as a union between a man and a woman:

“This is a power grab into states’ rights of monumental proportions. It is ironic that many of the arguments for this power grab are echoes of the discussion of interracial marriage a generation ago. It is hard to believe that this bill is anything other than a thinly veiled attempt to score political debating points by scapegoating gay and lesbian Americans.”

In the end, Kerry was one of only 14 senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages and gave states the right to refuse to recognize those married in other states. President Clinton signed it into law.

In 2002, Kerry teamed up with his congressional colleagues, signing a letter opposing Massachusetts’ last effort to outlaw gay marriage. Kerry and company professed that they feared it could be used to prevent communities “from acting as they might wish to provide some form of recognition for same sex relationships.”

The letter, organized by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was sent on congressional stationery in July 2002 as the Massachusetts lawmakers first considered a constitutional amendment that limited marriage to “only the union of one man and one woman.”

“We believe it would be a grave error for Massachusetts to enshrine in our constitution a provision which would have such a negative effect on so many of our fellow residents,” Kerry and 11 other members of the state’s congressional delegation wrote.

The Legislature’s 2002 effort failed.

When the Republicans started to make hay with the 2002 letter, Kerry spokesman David Wade countered: “He [Kerry] opposed a proposed constitutional amendment in Massachusetts in the summer of 2002 because a sweeping proposal would have threatened civil unions, health benefits, or inheritance rights for gay couples that represent equal protection under the law.”

In the hierarchy of issues looming in 2004, gay marriage will undoubtedly matter less than the economy and the war in Iraq. However, same-sex marriage is a polarizing issue disturbing to Democrats.

A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll disclosed that 53 percent of Americans oppose a law allowing gay couples to marry, while 24 percent favor it. Moderate voters, who could swing the election one way or the other, generally oppose gay marriage. While Kerry also opposes it, his support for civil unions and his links with liberal Massachusetts will be cooking in the mix.

John Kerry has accused President George Bush of seeking “the lowest common denominator in American politics” by calling for a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage.

But Kerry’s flip-flopping and tap-dancing around the issue has earned him his own share of criticism. Gov. Mitt Romney recently reproved Kerry for what he said were Kerry's confusing positions on gay marriage:

“In the case of the Massachusetts Constitution, he agrees with me that we should have an amendment. On the federal Constitution he doesn't agree with me,” Romney said. “And I think the American people are going to be just as confused as I am as to where he stands.”

Meanwhile, New England’s largest gay-targeted newspaper, In Newsweekly, cited Kerry’s “flip-flops” on the issue of gay marriage in an editorial endorsing his rival, Sen. John Edwards.

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Part 1: When it comes to the gay marriage issue, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., finds himself in a delicate balancing act - trying to avoid appearing bigoted while catering to heterosexual and religious voters. With his own home state of Massachusetts coming up on a...
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Friday, 27 February 2004 12:00 AM
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