Monday, September 22, 2003

Republicans are prepared to oppose homosexual “marriage” in their national platform, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said yesterday.

“There is a lot of energy out there, a lot of concern about gay marriage,” Mr. Gillespie said. “So it wouldn’t surprise me if it were addressed in some form or fashion in the platform.”

He accused homosexual activists of intolerance and bigotry by attempting to force the rest of the population to accept alien moral standards. As a result, “tolerance is no longer defined as my accepting people for who they are,” the RNC chairman said.

“Many of us who are practicing Catholics deal with [other peoples homosexuality] in our own fashion,” Mr. Gillespie said. “I accept people for who they are — and love them. That doesn’t mean I have to agree or turn my back on the tenets of my faith when it comes to homosexuality.”

He said, “I think when people say, ‘Well, no, that’s not enough that you accept me for who I am, you have to agree with — and condone — my choice,’ that to me is religious bigotry, and I believe that’s intolerant. I think they are the ones who are crossing a line here.”

On the other hand, he said, “when people are free to pursue the choices that they want in the privacy of their home, that’s tolerance.”

The plank being considered for the Republican national platform, Mr. Gillespie said, would be in the form of a proposed amendment to the Constitution. The language would define marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual union, and would forbid states from legalizing homosexual “marriages.”

Such a plank is expected to energize the conservative base of Republican voters. Party strategists are counting on conservatives to ensure the re-election of President Bush.

A Wirthlin Worldwide poll of 1,000 adults earlier this year reported that six out of 10 Americans believed that only marriage between a man and a woman should be recognized legally and that 57 percent supported a constitutional amendment to that effect.

The poll also found that 56 percent of voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backed such an amendment.

Republicans’ decision on such a plank may turn on a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Mr. Gillespie said. Homosexual couples have brought suit against Massachusetts claiming violation of their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection for the state’s refusal to recognize same- sex “marriages.”

“My sense is that all these things are being considered and weighed right now and will be decided on if and when the Massachusetts Supreme Court rules,” Mr. Gillespie said.

Mr. Bush has declared that marriage is between one man and one woman. Mr. Gillespie said the White House is looking at an impact if the Massachusetts high court rules in favor of homosexual “marriage.”

“There are a couple questions here. One is: Does the ‘full faith and credit’ clause of the Constitution mean that if Massachusetts ordains gay marriages, then someone can go there [to marry], then move back to Virginia or some other state that does not recognize homosexual marriages and that state would be compelled to recognize such marriages?

“The next question is whether the [1996 federal] Defense of Marriage Act allows a state to say, ‘Regardless of what Massachusetts does, we don’t have to recognize gay marriage here,’” he said.

The issue energizes social and religious conservatives who comprise an important part of the Republican electoral coalition, but Mr. Gillespie said conservatives are divided about whether a constitutional amendment is the preferred approach and about what language any such amendment should include.

Some conservatives say an amendment would intrude on the traditional role of states in legislating marriage and family issues, said Dale Carpenter, a member of the pro-homosexual Republican Unity Coalition advisory board and former head of the Texas Log Cabin Republicans.

Proponents say same-sex “marriage,” rather than civil unions, is necessary to assure all the benefits, including Social Security for survivors, afforded to heterosexual married couples.

But Mr. Gillespie said, “I have a hard time distinguishing between civil union and gay marriage.”

The issue is gathering political momentum. In California yesterday, several groups sued California Gov. Gray Davis, who signed domestic partnership legislation Friday. The law gives nearly 300 marital and spousal rights to same-sex couples and heterosexual couples older than 62 who register as domestic partners in California.

The Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund filed suit in California Superior Court in Sacramento yesterday, saying the domestic partnership law effectively nullified a ballot measure approved in 2000 by more than 61 percent of voters. Proposition 22 declared the only valid marriage was between one man and one woman.

“California voters have spoken and they don’t want marriage hijacked by Governor Davis or anyone else,” said Vincent McCarthy, director of the Center for Marriage Law of New Milford, Conn., which supports the lawsuit against Mr. Davis.

• Cheryl Wetzstein contributed to this report.

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