In a debate telecast from the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Thursday night, Democratic presidential rivals John Kerry and John Edwards sparred over trade, the death penalty, and who has the best chance of defeating President Bush in November. But the two found common ground in opposing gay marriages as well as Bush's request to make them unconstitutional.
Kerry and Edwards both sharply criticized Bush's call for a federal constitutional amendment. "He's doing this because he's in [political] trouble.... He's playing politics with the Constitution of the United States," said Kerry.
"This is clearly nothing but politics," said Edwards.
Long-shot Al Sharpton, who along with Dennis Kucinich shared the debate stage, accused Bush of "gay baiting.... The issue is not who you go to bed with. The issue is whether either of you have a job when you get up in the morning."
Both Kerry and Edwards were campaigning Friday in some of the 10 states with Democratic contests on what is known as Super Tuesday, March 2. Kerry went into the debate with 686 delegates, in the Associated Press count, compared with 206 for Edwards, and set his sights on securing the nomination Tuesday. Edwards hopes for a comeback to keep his campaign alive.
Kerry was criticized by gay rights groups this week after he told The Boston Globe, in a story published Thursday, that he supports amending the Massachusetts constitution to ban gay marriage as long as such an amendment would provide for civil unions for same-sex couples. He stressed that he was referring only to the state, and not the federal, constitution.
"If an antifamily amendment passes the Democratic-controlled Massachusetts legislature on March 11, gay and lesbian families can partially blame John Kerry," said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans. "The senator should be ashamed of himself for putting politics over principle. Whether it's taxes, trade policy, the war on terror, or amending constitutions to discriminate against gay and lesbian families, John Kerry's positions change more often than the Massachusetts weather." The National Black Justice Coalition called on Kerry to oppose any federal or state constitutional amendment against marriage equality.