The Candidates on Gay Marriage

Given the recent Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling, gay marriage is certain to be a wedge issue in next year's presidential campaign. Most Democratic contenders are cautious -- only three are willing to engage the m-word, although nearly all of the others support civil unions.

Carol Moseley Braun
She is one of three candidates who support gay marriage. "All of us -- regardless of sexual orientation -- stand to benefit from equal marriage rights because stable families strengthen our communities and neighborhoods."

Wesley Clark
He doesn't advocate same-sex marriage but says he favors civil unions. "People who want same-sex relationships should have exactly the same rights as people who are in conventional marriages," said the retired Army general. "I am talking about joint domicile, rights of survivorship, insurance coverage ... I think that's essential in America today."

Howard Dean
Though he signed a civil union bill in Vermont giving gay couples the same benefits as married couples, Dean wants to leave decisions regarding same-sex marriage to the states. "Marriage isn't the federal government's business," he said. "My view is that we have to have a civil institution to provide equal rights for every single American." He was careful not to endorse gay marriage, remarking on ABC that voters will not accept it because "marriage has a long, long history as a religious institution."

John Edwards
Although he has stated that he supports gay adoption, he would not champion civil unions for those parents, let alone marriage. "I believe gay and lesbian Americans are entitled to equal respect and dignity under our laws. While I personally do not support gay marriage, I recognize that different states will address this in different ways."

Dick Gephardt
He drew applause when he said that he and his wife joined PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) after their daughter, Chrissy, came out. But Gephardt was one of the two candidates to vote for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. "Civil unions is the way to go," he said, suggesting that neither he nor the nation is ready for gay marriage. Daughter Chrissy disagrees.

John Kerry
He has hinted that he might favor gay marriage if the idea were more popular politically and could win support in Congress. "At this particular moment in time, I don't believe that exists," he said. "I don't support (gay) marriage itself because.... of how I view the world culturally." Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Dennis Kucinich
He openly supports same-sex marriage and has voiced his opinion throughout the campaign. "As a matter of simple justice, it's the right thing to do," he said.

Joseph Lieberman
The senator is quite clear on this issue. "I am opposed to gay marriage," he wrote in a statement adding at the same time that he supports 'same-sex unions.' Lieberman also voted for the Defense of Marriage act in 1996. "Marriage has a special status in our culture, our heritage, our history," he said recently.

Al Sharpton
He strongly advocates gay marriage, making no distinction between same-sex marriage and conventional marriage." It is like asking do I support black marriage or white marriage, because the inference of the question is that gays and lesbians are not human beings that can make decisions like any other human being."

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