- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele yesterday said discussions about a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage” detract from more important issues, but that Republicans should debate the matter.

“I would not want to see this election defined by that issue because quite frankly … it will not give my unemployed worker a job and it certainly will not restore the safety and security of America,” Mr. Steele told The Washington Times.

Mr. Steele, a Republican, is scheduled to give a prime-time speech next week at the party’s national convention in New York City.

He said each state should decide the issue, but added that he supports President Bush’s efforts in calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage, because some states are unwilling to act.

Mr. Steele did not specifically endorse or reject the idea of an amendment, saying only that he wanted to let “greater minds worry about it.”

Delegates to the Republican National Convention next week in New York have endorsed a hard-line stand against same-sex “marriage.”

The platform committee, which meets the week before the convention to draft the party’s national platform, yesterday approved language calling for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage” and opposing legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.

“We strongly support President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage,” the proposed platform language states.

Mr. Steele said the debate and its outcome is less critical than solving the country’s education and unemployment problems.

“What you do when you close the door in your home is your business,” he said.

Mr. Steele, a Catholic, said the discussion about whether to amend the Constitution is a “good debate” in which Republicans should take part. But he does not think taxpayers or employers should have to pay for benefits given to same-sex couples.

Mr. Steele said he is “offended” when homosexuals compare their struggle to blacks’ struggle for civil rights.

“If you are gay and you walk into a room, no one knows it unless you tell them who you are sleeping with,” he said. “If you are a black man, walk into a room and everyone knows you are black, and every prejudice and every thought and every preconceived notion they have about you immediately comes to the floor. …Don’t compare me as a black man in my struggle to that struggle. It is not the same.”

Same-sex “marriage” is one of the most-debated issues in the country but it is not clear whether it will be a key election issue.

The move in the Senate for such an amendment recently failed. And on Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter, Mary, is a lesbian, said he was against such an amendment.

Homosexual Republicans oppose the platform language because they say it sends a signal that the party is neither diverse nor inclusive.

Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican and the platform committee chairman, said he anticipates that committee members will make it clear that people of opposing views are welcomed in the party.

Mr. Steele is scheduled to host a reception at the 40/40 Club in New York during convention week. The club is owned by rapper Jay-Z, and there are rumors that he and fellow rapper P-Diddy will attend.

He said it is important to work with the hip-hop community, because its members are trying to find solutions to poverty, unemployment and poor education.

Mr. Steele said he asked friends Russell Simmons, who founded Def Jam Records, and actor Charles Dutton “to be a part of our Republican experience in New York.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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