Hugh Hewitt explores this issue well, and I cannot do it any better than he did; read Hugh's entire post here.
In 1996 Kerry voted against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed the states to define marriage.
In 2002 Kerry was on the record opposing a same-sex marriage amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution. Here's the letter he signed, along with other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.
In 2004, now running for president, he did not sign a letter opposing a similar measure in Massachusetts, as USA Today reported. He even announced his support for the measure.
Also in 2004, just after Missouri voters overwhelmingly passed a statewide referendum doing just what the Massachusetts amendment would have done: defining marriage as only between one man and one woman, Kerry told the Kansas City Star he would have voted for that referendum. And, Hewitt notes:
Kerry did say that he would have voted for Amendment 2, the constitutional
amendment banning gay marriage that passed overwhelmingly Tuesday. He said
that Massachusetts passed the same type of amendment a few years ago and that he supported it." (I am unaware of what Kerry is talking about here, but it
seems as though he was intent on lying to the Star reporters, who ought to have
been informed by the candidate of his February 2002 letter opposing a
Massachusetts amendment on the subject.)
Hugh notes that Kerry seems to have a deal with his liberal supporters: They wink at this sort of thing, and he'll deliver the judges they want after he is elected. The judges will do the dirty work and enshrine same-sex marriage in the Constitution. It's really quite a plausible and very cunning strategy.
It does seem that someone ought to ask Kerry about the changes in his views on this subject. The interviewer will have to be someone who's willing to ask follow-up questions; otherwise, Kerry will simply say he's personally opposed to gay marriage but thinks it ought to be left up to the states, or some such thing. He needs to be asked:
- Why did you oppose DOMA? Do you still oppose it?
- Why did you oppose the Massachusetts amendment on 2002?
- What made you change your mind and support the same type of amendment in 2004 and the Missouri referendum in 2004?
- Would you be opposed to the federal courts deciding either that DOMA or state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional?
- You are an attorney; if you were a federal judge would you be inclined so to decide?
- Would you appoint judges who would be inclined so to decide?
I don't know if he'll ever see his feet held to the fire this way but it would be nice to see someone try. Maybe in the presidential debates.
UPDATE: Thanks to RealClearPolitics for August 8, 2004, here is a Weekly Standard piece appearing today that addresses this issue even more directly. As the authors, Jeffrey Bell and Frank Cannon, note:
Asked in St. Louis about the previous day's vote, Kerry said he had no
problem with it. He, after all, unlike George W. Bush, is the candidate who
favors letting each state make its own decision. He didn't add that he was one
of 14 senators, all liberal Democrats, who voted against the Defense of Marriage
Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. The purpose of DOMA was to
let each state prohibit same-sex marriage even if a gay couple, married under
some other state's law, demanded recognition of their union by invoking the Full
Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. In his 1996 statement opposing
DOMA, Kerry said he believed the law to be unconstitutional.
John Edwards was not yet in the Senate when DOMA passed. But during the primaries he stated that he, too, would have voted against it. So on this, as on
so many other issues, Edwards is in complete agreement with his running mate: He is in favor of the right of states to define marriage, but opposed to the
federal legislation that sought to guarantee each state the right to keep its
So: I hope someone asks both candidates: Do you still believe DOMA is unconstitutional? If so, what is your position on what either the states or the federal government should do about same-sex marriage?