TV & Radio
Clinton silent on same-sex marriage
Possible presidential aspirant refuses to touch hot topic
- Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Saturday, July 8, 2006
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton -- widely considered a 2008 Democratic presidential favorite -- was surrounded in San Francisco on Friday by Democrats outspoken on the issue of same-sex marriage: a mayor who issued a landmark city decision to declare same-sex unions legal, a state assemblyman at the forefront of same-sex marriage legislation, and the party's pro-gay marriage candidate for governor.
But even standing alongside San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and state Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate for governor, on the morning after New York's highest court upheld a state ban on same-sex marriage, Clinton steadfastly ignored questions about the issue.
It was a marked contrast from a visit to San Francisco on a 1996 book tour, when the then-first lady expressed her views without reservation.
"Children are better off if they have a mother and a father,'' Clinton said in the San Francisco interview with the then-Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. "My preference is that we do all we can to strengthen traditional marriage ... and that people engaged in parenting children be committed to one another.''
But Clinton refused to revisit the topic Friday morning at a meeting with reporters after a $1,000-a-person fundraiser for Angelides' campaign. But her views now appear surprisingly similar to those in a majority ruling from New York's highest court; the decision's author, Judge Robert Smith, suggested children are better raised in so-called traditional families.
Clinton's silence in the Democratic bastion of San Francisco highlighted how the issue of same-sex marriage still presents a political dilemma for Democrats.
While polls show many in the party, as well as many independent and moderate voters, support the concept of same-sex marriage, California voters in 2000 approved Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Polls nationally show a majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage -- but also support civil partnership rights.
"Not unlike many aspirants of national office of both parties, Sen. Clinton has not endorsed the concept of equal marriage rights for all citizens,'' said Leno, who has authored a score of marriage equality bills in the Legislature, one of which was passed last year and vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cited state voters' views on the matter.
While Massachusetts' high court in 2003 cleared the way for same-sex marriage in that state, Georgia's top court also Thursday reinstated Georgia's same-sex marriage ban. Forty-five states bar same-sex marriage by law or constitutional amendment. And voters in 14 states have since 2004 approved ballot measures banning same-sex marriage.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts have been outspoken in support of same-sex marriage, Leno said, but "there are unfortunately few national leaders who wish to address the subject and even fewer who wish to embrace it as the civil rights issue that it is.
"I believe that those of us who support marriage equality and the issue itself suffer due to the lack of leadership,'' he said. "We'd be making greater progress if we had some folks speaking up.''
Angelides did that on Friday, saying that the state and its families would be better served with legal same-sex marriage.
Asked if Clinton's views were closer to Schwarzenegger's than his, Angelides said he couldn't speak for the New York senator.
But, he added, "I consider one of the great blessings in my life that I grew up in a wonderful, stable, loving family. I believe every Californian, every American ... ought to have the right to grow up in a loving family. And I would sign the marriage equality bill, because I believe that if we get behind people ... being in loving relationships, that's a good thing for this society. And I'd sign the gay marriage bill because I'd hope that every child would have the opportunity to grow up in a loving family.''
Newsom said the issue of same-sex marriage is one reason for Democrats to strongly support Angelides' campaign.
"Frankly, if we have a governor that is willing to do the right thing, and to follow the Legislature's lead ... we won't have a debate in the courts, and we will advance the issue of equality in an appropriate manner,'' Newsom said.
Still, Leno said he doesn't expect the issue of same-sex marriage to become fodder for the 2006 gubernatorial election.
"I would doubt greatly that it is an issue raised by the Schwarzenegger team because it would only do them harm,'' Leno said. "They know they can't win with only Republican voters. They need independents and Democrats, and a strong majority of those both support marriage equality.''
Leno pledged to introduce a marriage equality bill on the first day of the new legislative session, Dec. 4 -- less than a month after the November election.
"We are very confident that we will get it to the governor's desk in 2007, yet again,'' he said. "I'm supporting the candidate who says he'll sign it.''
E-mail Carla Marinucci at email@example.com.
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