- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2007

LEBANON, N.H. — John Edwards said yesterday that if elected president, he would try to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton, and do away with the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the U.S. military.

After a star-studded campaign event in this small town’s opera house, the former North Carolina senator said the law known as DOMA is “discriminatory.”

“I think we should get rid of DOMA; I think DOMA was a mistake from the beginning, and discriminatory, and so I will do everything in my power as president to do that,” the Democratic candidate said in a three-minute meeting with reporters.

Asked by The Washington Times why the act is discriminatory, he bristled, then said: “I think it’s discriminatory against gay and lesbian couples, that’s what’s discriminatory about it.”

An Edwards staffer ended the press conference one minute later.

DOMA stipulates that no state “shall be required” to recognize a marriage between persons of the same sex, even if the “marriage” is recognized in another state. The act also defines the word “marriage” as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

Nearly all the Democratic candidates have come to New Hampshire and applauded its civil union law, signed in June, that grants homosexual unions most of the legal rights of married couples. When Mr. Edwards told several hundred people that “the key is to have the federal government recognize civil unions between same-sex couples,” he received hearty applause.

When he followed with “I would end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” the policy that prevents homosexuals in the military from disclosing their sexual orientation, he received whoops and cheers. That policy also was approved by Mr. Clinton, a Democrat, in 1993.

Mr. Edwards was not in the Senate when DOMA was passed, but has since said he would have opposed the bill. During a forum this summer on homosexual rights, the former senator said public school students “need to understand why same-sex couples are the parents of some of the children.”

He also said then that he opposes homosexual “marriage,” but told The Times yesterday he would not support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Edwards is running third in New Hampshire, at about 16 percent of the vote, half that of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. But he is statistically tied with the New York senator for second place in Iowa — with both trailing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — and plans a 24-hour blitz after Christmas, along with new ad buys and stepped-up campaigning.

At yesterday’s event singers Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne performed at the Lebanon Opera House, singing old hits — and one unusual song. In it, Mr. Browne sang the words: “I ain’t no Democrat, I sure ain’t no Republican, there’s only one party, and that’s freedom.”

“We don’t lend our endorsement lightly,” Miss Raitt said. “We got to get this guy elected so we can have real change and not just lip service.”

But she didn’t help state voters much when she told them to head to the polls on “January 3” — New Hampshire’s primary is Jan 8. Iowans go to their first-in-the-nation caucus on Jan. 3.