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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 27, 2007

Marriage questions spice You Tube candidate forum


Charleston, S.C.--The effort to democratize democracy in the United States saw Democratic presidential candidates answering two gay-related questions in their televised debate on July 23.

The forum was presented by CNN and YouTube, the website where people post videos of everything from illegally recorded television shows to their cats playing with string.

Around 3,000 questions were submitted by YouTube users, and 39 were selected.

The first one to touch on queer issues was from Mary and Jen, a lesbian couple in Brooklyn, New York.

“If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be married--to each other?” they asked.

Host Anderson Cooper, himself gay although usually reticent about his sexual orientation, threw the question first to Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

“Mary and Jen, the answer to your question is yes, and let me tell you why,” he said. “Because if our constitution really means what it says, that all are created equal, if it really means what it says that there should be equality of opportunity before the law, then our brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender should have the same rights accorded to them as anyone else, and that includes the ability to have a civil marriage ceremony.”

Sen. Chris Dodd voiced his support for civil unions, noting, “I don’t go so far as to call for marriage . . . But my state of Connecticut, the state of New Hampshire, have endorsed civil unions. I strongly support that.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson took a pragmatic view.

“Well, I would say to these young women, I would level with you, I would do what is achievable,” he said. “What I think is achievable is full civil unions with full marriage rights. I would also press for you a hate crimes act in the Congress. I would eliminate “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military.”

Cooper then threw a question from Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Exodus Mission and Outreach Church in Hickory, N.C. to Sen. John Edwards.

Longcrier asked, “Sen. Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights?”

“I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue,” Edwards replied. “I want to end discrimination, I want to do some of the things that I just heard Bill Richardson talking about, standing up for equal rights, substantive rights, civil unions, the things that Chris Dodd just talked about. But I think that’s something everybody on this stage will commit themselves to as president of the United States.”

“But I personally have been on a journey on this issue,” he continued. “I feel enormous conflict about it. As I think a lot of people know, my wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago, and she actually supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very, very difficult issue for me, and I recognize and have enormous respect for people who have a different view of it.”

Cooper then asked Longcrier if Edwards’ answer satisfied him, to which he replied that he had not heard all of the reply. A boiled-down question was then given to Edwards for a brief reply.

“Why is it okay to quote religious beliefs when talking about why you don’t support something?” Cooper asked.

“It’s not. I mean, I’ve been asked a personal question . . . do I believe in and do I personally support gay marriage?” Edwards answered. “The honest answer to that is I don’t. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I’m president of the United States.”

The host then turned to Sen. Barack Obama and posited a related question of his own.

“The laws banning interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?” Cooper asked.

After expressing his support for civil unions carrying the full legal weight of marriage, Obama noted, “Now, with respect to marriage, it’s my belief that it’s up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of, you know, the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government, those should be equal.



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