WASHINGTON (BP)--He opposes same-sex marriage and "special rights" for homosexuals, Republican candidate George W. Bush said Oct. 11 in the second presidential debate.
"I'm not for gay marriage," Bush said, according to a transcript by The Washington Post. "I think marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman."
The governor of Texas responded to moderator Jim Lehrer's comment that in the Oct. 5 debate between the vice presidential candidates both Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Republican Dick Cheney "said they were sympathetically rethinking their views on same-sex relationships."
Vice President Al Gore, the Democrats' nominee, said he agreed marriage is between a man and a woman but "we should find a way to allow some kind of civic [sic] unions." Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to sanction civil unions for homosexuals, giving them nearly identical rights to married couples.
Later, Lehrer asked Bush if he generally believed homosexuals "should have the same rights as other Americans?"
"Yes. I don't think they ought to have special rights, but I think they ought to have the same rights," Bush said. He supports the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, Gore said and asked if Bush would endorse the legislation. ENDA is a congressional measure that would add "sexual orientation," which includes homosexuality, to categories such as race, age and gender that receive civil-rights protection in the workplace.
He does not "know the particulars of this law," Bush said, adding he does not "hire or fire somebody based upon their sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, I'd like to take the issue a little further. I don't really think it's any of my, you know, any of my concerns how you conduct your sex life. And I think that's a private matter. And I think that's the way it ought to be.
"But I'm going to be respectful for people. I'll tolerate people. And I support equal rights, but not special rights for people."
When asked by Lehrer how "special rights" relates to homosexuals, Bush said "if they're given special protective status. And that doesn't mean we shouldn't fully enforce laws and fully protect people and fully honor people, which I will do as the president of the United States."
Though Bush did not directly address civil unions for homosexuals or elaborate further on what he meant by "special rights" for homosexuals, his answers were certain to be much more welcome to religious conservatives and others who oppose homosexual rights than were those of his running mate. Opponents of homosexual rights often use the term "special rights" to refer to attempts to grant civil rights based on sexual preference or behavior.
Cheney had said in his debate with Lieberman he wrestled "with the extent to which there ought to be legal sanction" of homosexual relationships. He also said, "I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into."
Cheney, a former secretary of State and a 10-year member of the House of Representatives with a conservative voting record, also did not say where he stood on the issue of civil rights for homosexuals.
Gore and Lieberman both favor civil rights for homosexuals.
Bush said he appreciated that President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which opposed same-sex marriage. Gore said he supported the legislation.
Homosexual advocates have made great progress in recent years in gaining rights and benefits in the public and private sectors. This year's Democratic platform called for the "full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of the nation," including "an equitable alignment of benefits."
The Republican platform endorses marriage as only the legal union of a man and woman.
The Southern Baptist Convention has in recent years adopted resolutions opposing same-sex marriage and civil rights based on homosexuality. The convention's public-policy agency, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has consistently opposed legislative efforts to equate sexual preference with categories deserving of protection.
The debate was held at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C. The last of the three debates will be held Oct. 17 in St. Louis, Mo.
Visit The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's website for a comparison of the Republican and Democratic parties' platforms at: http://www.erlc.com/partyplatforms.htm.