Cheney says same-sex 'marriage' should be states' issue

DAVENPORT, Iowa (BP)--Distancing himself from President Bush and disappointing social conservatives, Vice President Dick Cheney said Aug. 24 that he personally believes the issue of same-sex "marriage" should be decided by the states.

Cheney's answer in response to a question puts him at odds with Bush, who supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would protect the traditional definition of marriage. Cheney did, though, explain Bush's position and say that the "president makes basic policy for the administration."

During the campaign appearance, Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter, was asked by an audience member, "I would like to know, sir, from your heart -- I don't want to know what your advisers say, or even what your top adviser thinks -- but I need to know what do you think about homosexual marriages."

Acknowledging his daughter is homosexual, Cheney said that same-sex "marriage" is "an issue that our family is very familiar with."

"The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction, or approval, is going to be granted by government ... to particular relationships," he said, according to a White House transcript.

"Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that basic fundamental decision in terms of defining what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when I ran and this question came up in the debate I had with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that's how it ought to best be handled."

Cheney subsequently said that "my own preference is as I've stated."

Cheney then explained Bush's position, saying that in supporting an amendment the president was reacting to events in Massachusetts and that judges were "beginning to change" the definition of marriage "without allowing the people to be involved."

"[T]he President makes basic policy for the administration," Cheney said. "And he's made it clear that he does, in fact, support a constitutional amendment on this issue."

Cheney also said that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act –- which gives states the option of not recognizing another state's same-sex "marriages" -- "may be sufficient to resolve this issue." The law is being challenged in federal court. If overturned, then every state presumably would be forced to recognize Massachusetts' same-sex "marriages."

Cheney's remarks drew criticism from amendment supporters, who praised Bush in February when he publicly announced his position on the issue.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Cheney's position is a "flawed strategy" because it fails to recognize the threat that courts pose. Federal courts can strike down state laws against same-sex "marriage," Land noted.

"I am fearful that Mr. Cheney's position will be completely eroded and undone by the courts, because my prediction is that unless there is a Federal Marriage Amendment [passed] within the next 18 months, a federal district court will begin the process of striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act."

Land said Cheney has made his position known in the past.

"Politically, this is not that big of a deal because this is not any different than what Dick Cheney's been saying," Land said. "It's just that he's publicly distancing himself from the president's position."

Bush's position is what matters most, Land said.

"The president's position is strongly supportive of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is the only position that counts," Land said. "If this were reversed, and Cheney were president and Bush were vice president ... it would guarantee the defeat of the Republican ticket."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said he is "left to wonder why the vice president is allowed to depart from this position when the top of the ticket is unified on all other issues."

"I find it hard to believe the vice president would stray from the administration's position on defense policy or tax policy," Perkins said in a statement. "For many pro-family voters, protecting traditional marriage ranks ahead of the economy and job creation as a campaign issue.

"... If the vice president perceives the problem of activist judges and their actions, as he stated in his remarks, then how can he not endorse the same solution the president and his pro-family allies have proposed? We urge Vice President Cheney to support President Bush and a constitutional amendment on marriage."

Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign -- the largest homosexual activist group in America -- said in a statement that Bush "must be feeling the heat."

“Millions of Republican families, like the Cheneys, have gay friends and family members and are offended by President Bush’s efforts to put discrimination in the Constitution," she said. "As Vice President Cheney makes clear, this is a personal issue that affects hard-working, tax-paying Americans. The Bush administration can’t have it both ways.”

In the past few months, Cheney has said he supports Bush on the marriage amendment. But in those instances Cheney did not give his personal opinion.

"The president's taken the clear position that he supports a constitutional amendment," the vice president told MSNBC in March. "I support him."

Cheney made a similar comment during a March interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Asked by Blitzer if he supported Bush's stance on a marriage amendment, Cheney said, "I support the president."

Polls consistently show that Americans oppose same-sex "marriage" by a margin of 2-to-1. A Pew Research Center poll released Aug. 24 showed that 60 percent of Americans oppose homosexual "marriage," 29 percent support it.

Although polling on the marriage amendment varies depending on how the question is phrased, a CBS News poll this year showed that 60 percent also support an amendment.


Following is a transcript of Cheney's remarks, provided by the White House:

Question: "We have a battle here on this land, as well. And I would like to know, sir, from your heart -- I don't want to know what your advisors say, or even what your top advisor thinks -- but I need to know what do you think about homosexual marriages."

Cheney: "Well, the question has come up obviously in the past with respect to the question of gay marriage. Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with. We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them. They're both fine young women. They do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us. And we are blessed with both our daughters.

With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be able to free -- ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.

"The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction, or approval is going to be granted by government, if you will, to particular relationships. Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that basic fundamental decision in terms of defining what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when I ran and this question came up in the debate I had with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that's how it ought to best be handled.

"The President has, as result of the decisions that have been made in Massachusetts this year by judges, felt that he wanted to support the constitutional amendment to define -- at the federal level to define what constitutes marriage, that I think his perception was that the courts, in effect, were beginning to change -- without allowing the people to be involved, without their being part of the political process -- that the courts, in that particular case, the state court in Massachusetts, were making the judgment or the decision for the entire country. And he disagreed with that.

"So where we're at, at this point is he has come out in support of a federal constitutional amendment. And I don't think -- well, so far it hasn't had the votes to pass. Most states have addressed this. There is on the books the federal statute Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996. And to date it has not been successfully challenged in the courts, and that may be sufficient to resolve the issue. But at this point, say, my own preference is as I've stated. But the President makes basic policy for the administration. And he's made it clear that he does, in fact, support a constitutional amendment on this issue."

-- For more information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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