Gay marriage question confronts more candidates
WASHINGTON (RNS)–Leaders in the Democratic race for president expressed commitment to homosexual-rights issues at a mid-summer forum, but most stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.
Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights organization, the seven Democratic presidential candidates who attended endorsed measures to prevent discrimination against gays.
But only three candidates–Al Sharpton, a minister from New York City; Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois–said they supported homosexual marriage. All three are considered longshots for the nomination.
Other candidates were more ambiguous in their statements, saying they supported civil unions that would grant homosexual couples most of the rights heterosexual married couples enjoy, such as hospital visitation rights and survivor's benefits under Social Security.
Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut both said they favor civil unions but added marriage is a “historic, cultural” institution between men and women.
With the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn a Texas law that criminalized sodomy and Canada's recent legalization of homosexual marriage, presidential candidates are facing pressure to state their views the issue, which may prove a stumbling block for Democrats seeking votes from both liberals and social moderates.
Americans remain split on the issue, according to a recent Gallup poll, which found that 55 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage.
Meanwhile, conservative Republican leaders, including President Bush, have spoken out against homosexual marriage.
Republican leader Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told reporters he favors upholding the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton.
“The restatement of that is that marriage is very simple–a union between one man and one woman, not two men or three men or four men, or one man–or one woman–or two women, three women, or three women and three men. It's not that. It's one man, one woman. It's what the law of the land is. I will support that,” Frist said.