GO FIGURE FRED: It's a little hard to figure which way Republican Fred Thompson wants to go on the issue of gay marriage. Just days before he officially joined the GOP field, on Sept. 6, he said he opposes gay marriage and doesn't believe 'one state ought to be able to pass a law … allowing gay marriage and have another state be required to follow along under full faith and credit.' Then his campaign issued a statement saying Thompson 'does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage' but that, 'if necessary,' he would support an amendment 'prohibiting states from imposing their laws on marriage on other states.'
Then, on his second day of official campaigning, an audience member in Sioux City, Iowa, asked what role he thinks the federal government should have concerning gay marriage, in light of the recent district court decision in Des Moines that the state constitution requires gay couples be treated equally by the state's marriage laws.
'I would support a constitutional amendment which says some off the wall court decision in one state that recognizes a marriage … cannot go to another state and have it recognized in that state,' said Thompson.
The Des Moines Register mistakenly reported Thompson as saying an amendment should 'bar court decisions on gay marriage in one state from being recognized in another' and the paper said that was actually a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But Thompson did not say that and neither did DOMA. DOMA, which Thompson voted for in 1996 when he was representing Tennessee in the U.S. Senate, says no state 'shall be required' to recognize a law or court decision from another state concerning 'a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage….'
Thompson did say he is concerned that, under the federal constitutional clause requiring one state to give 'full faith and credit' to the laws and court proceedings of another state, the courts will require other states to recognize same-sex marriages licensed in other states.
'That should not be the case,' said Thompson. 'And I'll go further than that….The second part of my amendment would also state that judges could not impose this on the federal or state level unless a state legislature signed off on it.'
Interestingly, that second part would seem to suggest that Thompson would be OK with 'imposing' same-sex marriage on the federal government and other states if a state legislature votes affirmatively to treat gay couples the same as straight couples in marriage licensing. Thompson said he thinks the case of any state legislature approving such legislation is 'virtually zero,' but he apparently hasn't heard the news that the California legislature has done so twice—in 2005 and on the very day Thompson was speaking to this audience. ( Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it in 2005 and is expected to do so again this year. )
Thompson's remarks concerning the marriage amendment can be viewed on YouTube. But according to the Sioux City Journal, he was also asked what 'society's position' should be on 'deviancy, including homosexuality.' The paper said Thompson replied that he opposes discrimination against gays but that he also opposes 'special categories' for treatment of people, whatever that means.
APPLAUSE AND BOOS: While Fred Thompson was applauded for his remarks in Sioux City, Iowa, Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback was booed for his in New Hampshire. The reaction came as somewhat of a surprise to many watching the Republican debate on the campus of the University of New Hampshire in Durham and broadcast by the conservative Fox News Channel. Fox had one of its reporters in a local restaurant watching the Sept. 6 debate with local residents and the debate cutaway to that reporter occasionally who then asked someone in the restaurant what they were thinking. On the second cutaway, shortly after Brownback reiterated his commitment to 'family values,' the reporter asked a woman from Dover whether there should be a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. 'Absolutely not,' said the woman. 'We're the state of 'Live free or die' and people should be able to marry the person they love. There was a big eruption of applause in the debate audience as the cameras turned back to the candidates and the question was posed to Brownback. When Brownback said yes, there was, at first, another eruption of applause. But then that was quickly drowned out by a loud chorus of boos. Brownback smiled and said, 'I understand this is a divided audience on this.'
JUST A CO-CHAIR: Speaking of the debate, it was interesting to hear the audience applaud candidate Duncan Hunter when he said Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, should resign immediately. To recap, for anyone who has been out of communication for the past two weeks, Craig is the Republican senator who pleaded guilty to a charge related to his alleged solicitation for sex in an airport men's room. 'One thing about our party,' said Hunter, fishing around for something to say after answering the question, 'when our guys have problems like this, they leave the Senate or they leave the House. When the Democrats have problems like this, they often make them chairman of their respective committees.' That remark drew some laughs and much applause and cheers. What Hunter and the audience apparently didn't realize is that Craig was, until news of his arrest emerged Aug. 27, co-chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Idaho.
MOVE TOWARD THE EXITS: Craig was not only a key Romney campaign leader in Idaho; he was the candidate's co-liaison to the U.S. Senate. The former governor had a very terse, 'He's no longer associated with my campaign' when asked about Craig after the scandal broke. Though Romney said he had not yet decided whether to call for Craig's resignation from the Senate, a number of news outlets noticed that a videotape of Craig expressing support for Romney had been blocked on YouTube, reportedly by the Romney campaign which had posted it. Naturally, it didn't take long before two separate copies of the video were available, apparently from outside the campaign. In the video, Craig expresses admiration for Romney's commitment to family values—'That's something I grew up with and believe in,' says Craig, who was arrested on June 11, barely a month after Romney named him to the campaign.
STOP, DROP AND ROLL: Republican presidential hopeful John McCain didn't hesitate to call for Craig's resignation. That may be, in part, due to the fact that news of Craig's arrest broke in a Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, Aug. 27, barely a month after news broke that the McCain campaign's Florida co-chair was arrested on charges that he solicited an undercover male officer in a city park. And it's worth noting that, though he wasn't caught in a public restroom, one of Rudy Giuliani's regional campaign chairs, U.S. Senator David Vitter, R-La., acknowledged earlier this summer that he engaged the services of a company being prosecuted for running a prostitution ring. All three of the candidates' supporters are married and have expressed concern that gay marriage might endanger the institution of marriage.
McCAIN FIRES BACK: On Sept. 4, a high school student in Concord, N.H., expressed disappointment to McCain over his opposition to equal rights for gay couples. That alone was not particularly newsworthy, but the student got some media attention for his remarks because he made them at a campaign forum at the public high school where McCain referred to another student as a 'little jerk.' ( He laughed as he used the phrase, as did the student audience. ) The added attention which the forum drew because of the unusually harsh volley also drew attention to the fact that McCain didn't know what 'LGBT' stands for when a student asked him where he stands on LGBT issues. Someone in the audience, recognizing his puzzlement over the question, yelled out 'lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender' and, according to the Washington Post, McCain acknowledged, 'I had not heard that phrase before.' McCain is apparently fond of calling people 'jerks;' a YouTube video posted in June showed him shaking hands with a reporter and calling him a jerk.
ELLEN QUIZZES HILL: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres asked Democrat Hillary Clinton why she doesn't support marriage rights for gay couples, but she never got an answer. The Democratic presidential hopeful simply reiterated her stump answer: that she supports civil unions with 'full equality of benefits.' 'And then we have a lot of other work to do,' said Clinton, changing the subject to discrimination against gays in the military and arenas other than marriage licensing. To her credit, DeGeneres tried a second time, with a question not often asked of candidates: whether Clinton thinks someone could say they support gay marriage and win the White House. 'I don't know,' said Clinton. Apparently believing that DeGeneres was trying to tease out of her whether her civil union position was one chosen for its political digestibility, Clinton added that she's held her current position 'for years' and reiterated that she believes marriage should be 'left to the states.'