Thursday, February 05, 2004

Homework help for John Kerry. As a public service to the Democratic front-runner, Media Log has dug up some of his and his office's statements from 1996 on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Kerry showed some backbone that year: of the 14 senators who were up for re-election, he was the only one to vote against it, according to USA Today. (Granted, he was also in the midst of a tough re-election fight against then-governor Bill Weld, a favorite of the gay community.)

Despite Kerry's opposition, DOMA passed and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. But Kerry's public statements are instructive as we wait to see if he'll weigh in on the current effort to amend the state constitution so that same-sex marriages will be banned.

On June 24, 1996, the Boston Globe reported that "Kerry intends to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act because it 'does not seem to address any realistic national legislative needs,' according to his campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Watson. Since no state currently recognizes gay marriage, 'this bill is premature at best; at worst, it is an attempt to divide and play to people's fears,' Watson said."

Hmm. Not too promising. Watson left her boss with far too much wiggle room, leaving open the possibility that Kerry would have supported DOMA if there were actually a state that recognized same-sex marriage.

But the senator himself was more emphatic on September 5, 1996, when he told the Boston Herald, "This bill is election-year pandering of the worst order, and I will not be a party to legislative gay-bashing." Go get 'em, John! Now, repeat after Media Log: The state constitutional amendment favored by Governor Mitt Romney and House Speaker Tom Finneran is election year pandering of the worst order, and I will not be a party to legislative gay-bashing.

DOMA finally passed the Senate on September 10. And Kerry was notably blunt in expressing his opposition. According to the next day's Globe, Kerry called DOMA "fundamentally ugly, fundamentally political, and fundamentally flawed," adding: "The results of this bill will not be to preserve anything, but will serve to attack a group of people out of various motives and rationales and certainly out of a lack of tolerance."

The Herald published this Kerry sound bite: "This is an unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary, and mean-spirited bill."

Everything Kerry said in 1996 applies today. The amendment to the state constitution being pushed by Romney, Finneran, State Representative Philip Travis, and others is a nasty piece of work, designed to deny fundamental human rights to a minority of citizens while doing absolutely nothing for anyone else. I'm sure Kerry doesn't want to take a stand, but he's got to. It goes with being a senator, and it most certainly goes with showing the leadership expected of a presidential candidate.

If nothing else, Kerry could quote Jon Stewart, who had this to say when asked about it by Fox News's priggish bully-boy Sean Hannity: "The gay marriage thing scared me, but that's only because I thought at first it was mandatory. Now that I realize that it's only people that are gay, I'm much more comfortable."

(Point of personal privilege: the transcript quotes Stewart as saying, "I'm much more confident." But I saw Stewart that night, and I think he said "comfortable." So there.)

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