Long-shot Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Charlie Crystle of Pennsylvania said Tuesday he supports legalizing gay marriage and called on his opponents to follow suit. None of the other three Democratic candidates in the race supports extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. "It is time we stand by the principles of economic, social, and civil justice and support same-sex marriage," said Crystle, a computer software developer from Lancaster. "Anything short of this simply reinforces the perception that the Democratic Party has lost its way and no longer represents people or operates from a base of principles.... I urge the Democratic Party to find its backbone, stand up for justice, and fight for same-sex marriage. It's the right thing to do."
Crystle's stand could help him with liberal voters in the Democratic primary against the party favorite, Rep. Joe Hoeffel. But even Crystle acknowledged that the issue--what he calls "a bold position in a conservative state"--is not likely to endear him to many Pennsylvanians. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this year found that 58% of the state's registered voters believe homosexual behavior is morally wrong, while 27% said it is acceptable. The poll also indicated that 45% of Pennsylvania voters believe gay relations between consenting adults should be legal, while 35% believe it should be illegal.
Both Republicans vying for their party's nomination--incumbent senator Arlen Specter and his conservative challenger, Rep. Pat Toomey--have voted against same-sex marriages. Though Hoeffel also would deny the "status" of marriage to gays, he does support civil unions and other spousal rights, like shared health benefits, for same-sex couples. "The institution of marriage has such religious connotations for all religions and most Americans, and I don't think that Congress should impose the issue of gay rights onto the issue of marriage," Hoeffel said. "There should be some separation of church and state here. But I do believe in equal rights for gays."