At a Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines on Monday, several candidates took up the issue of gay marriage in the United States. The two-hour debate, sponsored by cable channel MSNBC, was the seventh since Labor Day but the first in Iowa, which holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses on January 19. On an issue certain to be front and center in the 2004 election, Massachusetts senator John Kerry was asked about last week's 4-3 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that a law prohibiting gay marriages was unconstitutional. The court told the state legislature to modify the law.
"I would urge the legislature to do precisely what the constitution requires," Kerry said. "It is a matter of equal protection under the law." He said the state's highest court "drew a distinction" between church-sanctioned marriages and the rights that a state offers couples.
Retired general Wesley Clark said, "I think we need to move forward with this issue. I think people who want same-sex marriages really should have the same rights as people in conventional marriages."
Sen. John Edwards stressed the need to talk about the issue in "the basic context of equality, dignity."
Al Sharpton said gay marriage should be viewed in the same light as marriage between people of different racial or ethnic groups. Even if people do not personally support the idea of gay marriage, he said, "you cannot limit the humanity of others unless you're prepared to say they are less than human."