Politics & Policy

“A Caste System For Marriage”

John Kerry, fair-weather federalist.

“I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis,” Senator John Kerry told a Washington Post reporter in 2003. He should add Google to that. (Maybe blame Al Gore for having invented the darn thing in the first place.)

John Kerry has walked the fence on same-sex marriage fairly well during his race for the White House. He opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment and says he opposes gay marriage (“I support equal rights, the right of people to have civil unions, to have partner rights. I do not support marriage”). He supports civil unions, but in the end supports states’ rights to decide. (“We’ve always argued the states will be capable of taking care of this by themselves,” he said last week after a Missouri vote on a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. “Massachusetts and Missouri are proving they are capable of taking care of it by themselves. [That] I think bears out that we didn’t need a [federal] constitutional amendment in order to do what’s right.”)

But in 1996, when Kerry was one of 14 senators to vote against the federal Defense of Marriage Act–which Democratic president Bill Clinton signed, albeit in the dead of night–he characterized the bill as “legislative gay bashing” and sounded awfully like a proponent of gay marriage. Herewith, writing for The Advocate:

Echoing the ignorance and bigotry that peppered the discussion of interracial marriage a generation ago, the proponents of DOMA call for a caste system for marriage. I will not be party to that. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained 30 years ago, “Races do not fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.” This is the essence of the American pursuit of happiness and the core of the struggle for equality.

Unless he has changed his mind–in which case he should be open with the people he is asking to elect him president–the Advocate piece suggests he is being a fair-weather federalist on marriage, not an honest one. He wrote, “The authors of the bill mistakenly claim that Congress has the authority to allow one state to ignore a legally recognized marriage in another. But the U.S. Constitution is unequivocal on this point: ‘Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.’” So in Kerry’s view–at least in 1996–Missouri has to recognize a Massachusetts gay marriage. Anything less would be “unconstitutional.”

You can read Kerry’s full Advocate piece here. One does wonder how a candidate who thinks gay marriage is the “essence of the American pursuit of happiness and the core of the struggle for equality” can really be against it. Organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates gay marriage, have certainly been content holding water for Kerry–actively attacking the Bush administration in an election year. (After the Missouri vote last week, HRC President Cheryl Jacques said: “This was part of an effort by President Bush to distract Missourians from the fact that the state has lost almost 80,000 jobs over the past three and half years.”)

Gay-marriage advocates seem not to worry much about the fate of their agenda in a Kerry administration. Well, no wonder, considering what he’s evidently willing to say when he thinks he’s talking behind the closed covers of a gay magazine.


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