A lesbian couple and a southern Baptist pastor quizzed Democratic presidential candidates about their views on same-sex marriage in a landmark debate on Monday night.
Users submitted more than 3,000 video questions via video sharing site YouTube, and according to the debate’s CNN host Anderson Cooper, same-sex marriage emerged as a popular issue.
The lesbian couple, from New York, asked whether the Democratic candidates would grant them the right to get married.
Representative Dennis Kucinich was the only candidate to unequivocally support gay marriage rights:
“If our Constitution really means what it says, that all are created equal, if it really means what it says, that there should be equality of opportunity before the law, then our brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered should have the same rights accorded to them as anyone else, and that includes the ability to have a civil marriage ceremony.”
Former Senator Mike Gravel is also known to support marriage equality, but somewhat fudged his response.
Other candidates – Senators Chris Dodd and Barack Obama, Governor Bill Richardson and former Senator John Edwards followed the ‘equality under the law’ line of argument – a euphemism for civil unions.
Senator Hillary Clinton was not asked.
John Edwards, known for using his Southern Baptist background to defend his opposition to same-sex marriage, was challenged by Southern Baptist minister.
“Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote,” said Reverend Reggie Longcrier of Hickory, North Carolina.
“So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?”
After avoiding the question and being compelled to answer by Cooper, Edwards answered:
“I’ve been asked a personal question, and that personal question is, do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage?
“The honest answer to that is I don’t. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as President of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I’m president of the United States.”
Edwards’ stance has been under scrutiny after his wife Elizabeth came out in support of legalised gay marriage at last month’s gay Pride celebration in San Francisco, taking a position which she acknowledged is at odds with her husband.
“I don’t know why somebody else’s marriage has anything to do with me,” Mrs Edwards told gay and lesbian people at Pride, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I’m completely comfortable with gay marriage.
“John has been pretty clear about it, that he is very conflicted,” she said.
“That’s up against his being raised in the 1950’s in a rural southern town. I think honestly he’s on a road with a lot of people in this country are on … they’re struggling with this.
“Most of the gay and lesbian people I know … have seen their friends and family walking down that same road.”
Mrs Edwards comments came after her keynote address to a standing-room-only breakfast for three hundred at the Alice B. Backlash Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, an organisation which is central to the powerful gay political base in San Francisco.
The breakfast appearance by the candidate’s wife was hailed as a milestone in the 30 year history of the Gay Pride event, which had never been visited by a major presidential candidate or spouse.
Lesbian couple’s question.
Baptist minister’s question.