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Elizabeth Edwards declares support for gay marriage
Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle Political Writer
Monday, June 25, 2007
Elizabeth Edwards, starring at the kickoff event of San Francisco's Gay Pride Parade, came out in support of legalized same-sex marriage Sunday -- taking a position that she acknowledged is at odds with her husband, presidential candidate John Edwards.
"I don't know why somebody else's marriage has anything to do with me," she said. "I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage."
Edwards' comments came after her keynote address before a standing-room-only breakfast attended by 300 people at the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, a key organization in the powerful gay political base in San Francisco.
The appearance by the candidate's wife -- witnessed by many local politicians, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris and City Attorney Dennis Herrera -- 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.
California's presidential primary is Feb. 5, making it one of the earliest races in the country and a frequent stop for candidates and their families.
Edwards' embrace of same-sex marriage puts her in a position that differs markedly from her husband, the former North Carolina senator. Edwards said her husband, though having a "deeply held belief against any form of discrimination," supports gay civil unions, but does not support 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 1950s in a rural southern town. I think honestly he's on a road that 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.
"It's frustrating, I know," she added, "but it's a long distance from where we are now to the pews of a Southern Baptist church. So, John's been as honest as he can about that."
Edwards said she has come to the conclusion that the marriage of another couple "makes no difference to me," just as it would make no difference in her opinion of a neighbor if he painted his house a different color.
"If he's pleasant to me on the street, if his children don't throw things in my yard, then I'm happy," she said. "It seems to me we're making issues of things that honestly ... don't matter."
Many at the breakfast where Edwards was enthusiastically received noted the stark differences between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on issues that matter to gay and lesbian voters.
All Democratic candidates support the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay people in the military, while none of the Republican candidates said they would support such a change.
All Democrats also support a measure recently passed in New Hampshire that allows civil unions. But the leading candidates -- Edwards, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama -- remain opposed to same sex marriage.
Only Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio, and former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska support same-sex marriage, but they are considered to have virtually no chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of the state law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The state Supreme Court has barred such marriages until it issues a final decision in the case. That decision is still pending.
This article appeared on page A - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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