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AMERICAN MORNING

Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriages Front and Center on Political Stage

Aired February 25, 2004 - 08:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Now that President Bush has called for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, the emotional issue is front and center on the political stage. Amending the constitution no easy task, but the president says it needs to be done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth out of Arizona is a co-sponsor of the amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.

Earlier today, I asked him why he thinks such an amendment is necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: What we've seen is an attack on marriage. And it's been very interesting, the dynamic, Bill, because what you essentially have is four members of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, then the mayor of San Francisco going ahead with gay marriages. And what's interesting is, if you take a look at the constitution, there's something known as the full faith and credit clause. And this is where folks like Senators Edwards and Kerry get in trouble.

They say they oppose gay marriage or oppose same-sex marriage, but they're not willing to take the constitutional amendment that is necessary to prevent Massachusetts or San Francisco from forcing the rest of the country to accept same-sex marriage.

HEMMER: Congressman, you're married, right?

HAYWORTH: Yes.

HEMMER: How would it harm you or your wife if gays or lesbians were allowed to marry legally in this country?

HAYWORTH: Well, the question is devoid of personalities, Bill. The fact is what we're looking at is the institution of marriage. This has very little to do with homosexuality and everything to do with the institution of marriage. And the question becomes, despite the fact that people are saying let the states decide, are we really letting the states decide when we let the Massachusetts Supreme Court, on a narrow vote, tell the people of Massachusetts that there will be gay marriage?

The other thing we point out, Bill, is the whole dynamic of what is called intimacy, because that's what the majority on the Massachusetts Supreme Court based its vote on it. It said marriage is an establishment of intimacy.

Now, by that standard, how many people do we have to have to have intimate? I guess two, three, four. It begs the question, which is why, sadly, a constitutional amendment is needed, which is why President Bush reluctantly came to this decision yesterday.

HEMMER: So your position, then, is take it out of the courts, be it in Boston or be it in Sacramento, in California, and allow the people in individual states to vote on this?

Is that your position?

HAYWORTH: Well, the people through their elected representatives and their members of the state legislature. That's the way we proffer constitutional amendments. There would have to be a super majority in the Congress in both Houses, then a super majority of the states would have to ratify that amendment. And that is the best way to have people express their opinions, through their elected representatives.

HEMMER: So and also the White House is saying, just to emphasize this, they're saying let the states decide. So if they decide on civil unions, that's OK, then, with this president?

HAYWORTH: Civil unions are left on the table, as has been noted in your report, and that's something to be discussed. But when it comes to the institution of marriage, Bill, we should make it clear that marriage in this country exists between one man and one woman.

Dare I point out that even now in Utah, there are some folks who favor polygamy who are trying to petition the courts there.

So we need to define marriage and the institution of marriage as consisting of that institution between one man and one woman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: J.D. Hayworth earlier today.

According to the leader of the nation's largest group of gay Republicans, the president's push for a ban on same-sex marriages is "a declaration of war against gays and lesbians."

Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, with us now for his thoughts on this live in D.C.

Good morning.

Nice to have you here.

PATRICK GUERRIERO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: Is civil -- are civil unions enough?

GUERRIERO: Well, actually, one of the pieces of misinformation over the last 24 hours is the federal marriage amendment before Congress goes further than defining marriage. There's a second sentence that, interestingly enough, Congressman Hayworth and others are not talking about, and it says the state and federal governments will not recognize the legal incidence thereof, which many legal scholars believe includes civil unions and even could jeopardize domestic partnership legislation in states like California.

We can't make any secret about this or sugar coat it. This amendment was written by the radical right in an attempt to make sure that gay and lesbian families who want tax fairness won't get it. That's why they're trying to file a constitutional amendment.

HEMMER: Here's what I'm trying to understand, the difference between marriage as it's recognized, legally or not legally, and a cui.

How would your life be different if you were able to marry legally?

GUERRIERO: Well, I think there are a bunch, a thousand, over a thousand federal benefits, from Social Security to pension to other issues that people who have civil unions in Vermont don't have access to. But more importantly than that, this amendment would deny civil unions and jeopardize domestic partnership legislation. And I'm amazed that the president would choose this issue to launch his reelection.

If you're unemployed in Ohio, if you're in the swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania and your son and daughter are fighting overseas in Iraq, or if you're a good gun owner in West Virginia who loves the constitution, you're wondering what the heck this president is making this a centerpiece of his reelection campaign. We should be talking about taxes and terrorism, not dividing the American family at this critical moment.

HEMMER: I take it, Patrick, you're turning your back on this White House. And if that's the case, where do you turn?

GUERRIERO: Well, we have actually been extraordinarily loyal to the president in the war on terrorism and his effort to cut taxes on families. At a certain point, we have to match our party loyalty with integrity. This was a dramatically bad step for the president. He might get a little bump in the polls for a few days, but we all remember in 1992 when Pat Buchanan declared a culture war on the country and it led to the defeat of the first President Bush.

This is not the way to win elections. It's the way to divide the American family. HEMMER: This is what I'm hearing on a number of interviews and newspaper reports. The opponents of your position say quite clearly where does it end, where does it stop? Do you recognize polygamy? Does it go that far?

How can you address that central question for the opponents of what you propose?

GUERRIERO: Polygamy is one of the weakest arguments that's thrown in the face. It's become a very stale argument. The Massachusetts court, as one example, said that it would be the exclusive union of two people who love each other. I don't see polygamist or group sex advocates showing up at city hall in San Francisco. What I see is loving, taxpaying, law abiding people wanting to be recognized.

I have a disagreement about following the rule of law. I think San Francisco has pushed this a bit too far, while I'm also moved by those beautiful couples. And so I would encourage activists to follow the rule of law through this. The American people deserve the opportunity to navigate through this issue.

HEMMER: So do you think the marriages in San Francisco should be amended, then, and reversed?

GUERRIERO: I don't believe in the end the courts are going to recognize those marriages. They counter California law. I think the images are beautiful and remind this is about two people who love each other.

What I do, though, is I support Vice President Cheney in 2000, who believed this was a states' rights issue. I believed the former governor of Texas, whose name was George Bush, who believed in states' rights. And I actually believed Bob Barr, who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, who says amending the constitution goes too far.

You don't have to support gay civil unions or gay marriage to understand that you don't play politics with a beautiful document like the constitution. Yesterday was a bad day for those of us who believe in an inclusive Republican Party.

HEMMER: From the Log Cabin Republicans, Patrick Guerriero.

Thanks for your time this marriage.

Appreciate it.

GUERRIERO: Good day, Bill.

HEMMER: All right.

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