Sen. John McCain said yesterday he would vote against a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, saying to do otherwise would be to act from “political expediency.”
“I will vote against it because I believe very strongly … first of all, on the sanctity of a union between man and woman, but I also believe that the states should make these decisions,” the Arizona Republican said. “The states regulate the conditions of marriage. And unless there’s some decisive overruling by the federal courts, then I will continue to believe that the states should decide.”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. McCain said he has “a pretty good compass” that guides his political beliefs.
“I’ve found in my life that when I do what I think is right — for example, on the marriage amendment — it always turns out, in the end, OK,” he said in an interview. “When I do things for political expediency, which I have from time to time, it’s always turned out poorly.”
Mr. McCain cited his 2000 stance on South Carolina’s display of the Confederate battle flag as an example of when “political expediency” had motivated his actions.
“I went down to South Carolina and said that the flag that was flying over the state Capitol, which was a Confederate flag, was — that I shouldn’t be involved in it, it was a state issue,” he said.
Mr. McCain called that position “an act of cowardice.” George W. Bush took the same position in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary, during which he scored a key victory over Mr. McCain.
Widely viewed as a leading contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Mr. McCain yesterday defended his proposal to grant “earned legalization” to illegal aliens, which critics have said would amount to an amnesty.
“What we are talking about, and what the overwhelming majority of the American people support, is an earned amnesty,” said Mr. McCain. “Background check, criminal background check, paying back taxes, $2,000 fine, learn English, work for six years, before getting in line behind everybody else.
“It’s very tough. It’s called earned citizenship.”
Mr. McCain also defended his vote in the Senate last week to make illegal aliens eligible for Social Security benefits.
“They paid the taxes. [The taxes] came out of their salaries and, so, they contributed. Should they … be deprived of the taxes that they paid?” he said.
He predicted that the Senate would approve a new immigration bill this week, and forecast cooperation in negotiations with the House, which has passed a bill that primarily addresses immigration-enforcement issues.
“Republicans in the House recognize that this is an issue that could hurt us with Hispanics unless we get it resolved, and with the American people,” Mr. McCain said. “They want us to lead and resolve this issue.”
He also was asked about his decision to speak last week at the commencement at Liberty University, whose founder, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, was labeled an “agent of intolerance” by Mr. McCain in February 2000.