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 • August 25, 2004
Cheney Stakes Out Stance on Gay Marriages, Differs With GOP Platform
New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 -In a political season marked by Republican efforts to outlaw gay marriage, Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday offered a defense of the rights of gay Americans, declaring that "freedom means freedom for everyone" to enter "into any kind of relationship they want to."

Mr. Cheney said the issue was what kind of government recognition to give those relationships, and indicated that he preferred to let the states define what constitutes a marriage. In contrast, President Bushhas argued that a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is essential. Mr. Cheney noted that Mr. Bush sets policy for the administration.

In unusually personal remarks on the issue, delivered at a campaign forum in Davenport, Iowa, the vice president referred to his daughter, Mary, who is a lesbian, saying that he and his wife "have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with." He added, according to a transcript of his remarks, provided by the White House, "We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them."

He spoke on the same day that a draft version of the Republican platform was distributed to convention delegates that declared, "We strongly support President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage." The draft platform added, "Attempts to redefine marriage in a single city or state could have serious consequences throughout the country, and anything less than a constitutional amendment, passed by Congress and ratified by the states, is vulnerable to being overturned by activist judges."

Gay rights advocates immediately accused the Bush administration of trying to have it both ways, reaching out to moderate voters one week before the party's convention in New York, after months of advocating a constitutional amendment that was a key goal of social conservatives.

"President Bush must be feeling the heat," Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said in a statement.

"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," Ms. Jacques said.

A leading group of social conservatives, the Family Research Council, indicated it was disappointed at the "mixed messages" from the administgation. Anne Womack, Mr. Cheney's campaign press secretary, said Mr. Cheney's position had not changed. "That's been his position for the past four years; his position has been completely consistent," Ms. Womack said. "The idea that he broke new ground or broke with the president today, people are just ignoring the reality of his statements over the past three and a half years."

Mr. Cheney emphasized: "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."

Mr. Bush, who endorsed a federal constitutional amendment in February, has argued that it was necessary to protect the traditional institution of heterosexual marriage from being redefined by activist courts.

The debate, however, has highlighted divisions within the Republican Party, between social conservatives seeking the amendment and more libertarian and states rights-oriented Republicans who believe marriage is a local issue. The amendment was soundly defeated by the Senate last month.

Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife, had said at the time that the recognition of marriage should remain under state control.

Mr. Cheney's remarks, in response to a questioner in Davenport, restated the position he voiced four years ago in the vice-presidential debate, well before Massachusetts' highest court ruled last year that gay marriage was not prohibited under that state's Constitution. In 2000, he also declared "freedom means freedom for everybody." He noted Tuesday that the issue remained what kind of "official sanction, or approval, is going to be granted by the government, if you will, to particular relationships.''

"Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states," Mr. Cheney added."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's appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that's how it ought to best be handled."

But Mr. Cheney noted that the president believed a recent round of court decisions, notably in Massachusetts, "were making the judgment or decision for the entire country," and had thus embraced a constitutional amendment.

The vice president also argued that the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by President Bill Clinton "may be sufficient to resolve the issue." That measure holds that no state is obligated to recognize a gay marriage from another state.

Mr. Cheney has been asked about this issue several times this year, and has generally given succinct answers. The issue has roiled politics for much of this year, but most politicians have treated it carefully. Asked to respond to Mr. Cheney's Tuesday comments, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign said, "We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that it should be decided by the states, and we do not support a constitutional amendment. That's where Kerry's always been."

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