Thursday, April 20, 2006

McCain Continues Tap Dance On Gay Marriage Issue

Sen. John McCain last week announced that he would once again be voting against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. In 2004, McCain voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) "because it usurped a state's authority to legislate the issue." But as the Washington Blade observes, the Marriage Protection Act (MPA), a revised version of the FMA which the Senate will take up in June, would "block judges from interpreting the U.S. or state constitutions to require civil marriage for gays." As the Blade explained, "By theoretically leaving open the door to states to legislate gay marriage if they so choose, McCain's concerns about states rights might have been assuaged." The MPA reads as follows:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

Notwithstanding that the MPA may leave open the possibility of states legislatively allowing gay marriages, McCain's not budging from his position. "I intend to vote against it," he said. "I believe each state should decide." Just the same, his position makes clear that he believes it is acceptable for the states to enact constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage as a number of states have already done. And, despite his claim that he favors allowing each state to decide for itself, he voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits marriage between members of the same sex in federal law, and provides that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. McCain did vote for enhanced criminal sentencing for crimes committed against a person because of their sexual orientation, as did all but four of his Senate colleagues, but he opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Moderate Republicans who may be more inclined to support McCain have been turned off by his recent overtures to Rev. Jerry Falwell, a former nemesis from his 2000 presidential campaign. Then McCain said, "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." Next month McCain will deliver the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University.

Log Cabin President Patrick Guerriero offers a weak defense for McCain's reaching out to Falwell. He tells the Blade that "the new alliance strengthens McCain's reputation within the GOP." "We disagree with Falwell on a wide range of issues, and he has said some things that are outrageous," Guerriero said. "I don't want to underplay or forget that. I just think it's not shocking to people who understand American politics that the candidates will reach out to people in different segments like this."

Sen. John McCain succeeded former Sen. Barry Goldwater, Arizona's long-time senator and 1964 GOP presidential candidate. McCain has often spoken very highly of his predecessor. Goldwater's views on gay rights emerged very late in his career when he spoke out against a ban on gays serving in the military. As Goldwater explained, "Having spent 37 years of my life in the military as a reservist, and never having met a gay in all of that time, and never having even talked about it in all those years, I just thought, why the hell shouldn't they serve? They're American citizens. As long as they're not doing things that are harmful to anyone else. ... So I came out for it."

Goldwater also openly embraced his gay grandson in his own way. "You try to find out where [homosexuality] started, even going back to old Egyptology – and you knew damn well the Egyptians had to have those people – but you can't find any writings," he says. "I have one grandson who's gay. And my brother [Bob Goldwater] has a granddaughter who is gay. We're sort of at a loss to know what the hell it's all about." Goldwater explained that his views were not based upon having gay relatives, but his belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. As he is famous for saying, "keep the government off my back and out of my bedroom." It's too bad Goldwater's libertarian attitude didn't rub off a little more on McCain.

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