Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The White House will not weigh in on a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a heterosexual union until the Massachusetts legislature and the San Francisco courts deal with the matter first, according to prominent homosexual leaders.

The leaders, including top Republican homosexual rights advocates who speak often with senior Bush administration officials, also said the White House likely will remain silent until Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry stops flip-flopping on the contentious issue.

“The reasonable political minds at the White House have decided that there’s no reason to say anything right now,” said Mark Mead, political director for Log Cabin Republicans, a national homosexual group.

Noting that senior administration officials have expressed plans to take a wait-and-see stance on how Massachusetts and San Francisco settle the homosexual “marriage” question, Mr. Mead said: “They want to let this sort out.”

In addition, Bush officials are watching Mr. Kerry on the issue. “The White House is smart to let John Kerry define his position because it changes hourly,” he said.

Another prominent homosexual advocate said he has had direct discussions with White House officials, who have told him that there has been no change in the president’s official position: Mr. Bush, as he said in his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, supports a constitutional amendment if Americans decide to take that path.

“From what I’ve heard, the White House is watching the Massachusetts legislature and the San Francisco courts to see what happens,” the advocate said on the condition of anonymity. “They’ve told me not to expect any action from the administration until those situations move forward.”

More than 2,300 homosexual couples have been issued “marriage” licenses in San Francisco since the city began to wed same-sex couples last week. A group opposed to the weddings sued, but a judge yesterday delayed until at least Friday a ruling on whether to block the “marriages.”

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts legislature late last week delayed for a month a decision on whether to amend the state’s constitution to ban homosexual “marriage.” Supporters of the homosexual “marriage” amendment failed to get a majority to pass any of the four proposed measures, so lawmakers decided to take up the issue again on March 11.

On Capitol Hill, an amendment sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican and co-sponsored by 103 other Republicans and eight Democrats, says: ” Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal laws, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

But even in Congress the matter is far from the front burner. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said last week that if Massachusetts remains deadlocked and the state begins to issue licenses to same-sex couples in mid-May, “the wildfire will truly begin.” That political firestorm is three months away.

But while the policies of homosexual “marriage” remain off in the distance, the politics are front and center. Homosexual groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans are withholding their endorsement of Mr. Bush pending his decision on homosexual “marriage.”

Meanwhile Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has also gotten into hot water over the issue. Last week, he said he would support an amendment to the Constitution banning “marriage,” despite his opposition to a similar effort two years ago and his current opposition to a federal marriage amendment. An aide later said the senator meant the Massachusetts — not the U.S. — Constitution.

The Washington Blade, a newspaper aimed at a homosexual audience, said Mr. Kerry, who supported the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and opposed the federal marriage amendment a year ago when he was looking for support for his presidential candidacy, has changed his views for political expediency.

“The same principles that Kerry uses to oppose the federal amendment apply to the Massachusetts version: Writing discrimination into the constitution — any constitution — is wrong. Kerry’s pronouncement this week directly contradicts the stance against a gay marriage amendment he took two years ago when a similar campaign was launched to amend the Massachusetts Constitution,” the Blade said in an editorial.

Mr. Kerry opposed efforts in Massachusetts two years ago when lawmakers sought to amend the state’s constitution to ban homosexual “marriage,” joining with all 12 members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

“We believe it would be a grave error for Massachusetts to enshrine in our Constitution a provision, which would have such a negative effect on so many of our fellow residents,” said a joint congressional letter dated July 15, 2002, and signed by Mr. Kerry.

Currently, five states have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman in their constitutions. Another 11 states are considering constitutional amendments, while 34 states have approved similar language in a state law.

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