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Kerry, Edwards use debate to further define marriage position

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Democratic presidential frontrunner John Kerry reversed his position on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act Feb. 26, while candidate John Edwards said the federal government should recognize same-sex “marriage” laws passed by individual states.

The two men made their remarks during a Democratic debate on the campus of the University of Southern California. It was sponsored by CNN and The Los Angeles Times.

Part of the debate focused on same-sex “marriage” and Kerry’s vote against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which passed the Senate 85-14 and was signed by President Clinton.

Times reporter Ron Brownstein referred to comments Kerry made in 1996 about the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, then asked, “And if the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, isn’t President Bush right, that the only way to guarantee that no state has to recognize a gay marriage performed in any other state is a federal constitutional amendment?”

“I think,” Kerry answered, according to a transcript, “under the full faith and credit [clause], that I was incorrect in that statement. I think, in fact, that no state has to recognize something that is against their public policy.”

In announcing his support for a federal marriage amendment Feb. 24, President Bush said that courts could overturn the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s full faith and credit clause, thus leading to nationalized same-sex “marriage.” The law serves as a protection for individual states and allows them not to recognize another state’s same-sex “marriage.” In addition, it prevents the federal government from recognizing any state’s same-sex “marriages.”

Kerry said Feb. 26 he opposed DOMA because it was “gay bashing” and because the issue of same-sex “marriage” was not “in front of the country” at the time. Brownstein asked Kerry if he would support DOMA now, being that Massachusetts and California are confronting the issue.

“No, because the Defense of Marriage Act is the law of the land today,” Kerry said.

Both Kerry and Edwards say they oppose same-sex “marriage” but also oppose a federal marriage amendment.

Edwards said in the debate that he believes the issue should be left to the states. He also said he opposes the Defense of Marriage Act; Edwards did not serve in the Senate when it was passed.

“There’s a part of it that I agree with, and there’s a part of it I disagree with,” Edwards said. “The Defense of Marriage Act specifically said that the federal government is not required to recognize gay marriage even if a state chooses to do so. I disagree with that. I think states should be allowed to make that decision.”

Earlier in the day, Edwards had dodged a series of questions from a San Francisco television reporter on the issue of same-sex “marriage.” Following a rally, Edwards gave a brief news conference in which reporter Vic Lee of KRON-TV shouted, “Senator, how would you define marriage, as a union between a man and a woman?”

Edwards ignored the question, then ignored similar questions three more times. After the fourth question, the press conference ended, KRON reported. Edwards’ reaction to the question was the lead story on KRON’s newscast, with Lee saying that Edwards reacted “rather strangely.”

San Francisco continues to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of state law.
For more information on the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at:

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  • Michael Foust