Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry, carrying three more election victories in his pocket from Tuesday, criticized President Bush on Wednesday for seeking to split Americans over the question of gay marriage and leaving "a trail of broken promises."
Kerry opposes gay marriage but favors allowing states to determine their own laws. He charged that Bush's backing of a constitutional amendment opposing same-sex marriage is a "wedge issue" to distract voters' attention from jobs, education, and other topics. "I think he's a president in trouble and he's just looking for a political change of subject," Kerry told Good Morning America on ABC. "He doesn't want to talk about the real issues in front of the nation."
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom called Bush's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages "shameful" and "cowardly." He strongly disputed Bush's assertion on Tuesday that San Francisco's wedding spree fueled his decision to back the amendment, citing comments the president made last summer indicating he would do so.
"I am deeply disturbed by the president's lack of truthfulness regarding his decision," said Newsom, who took office January 8. "President Bush promised the right wing of his party that he would support this effort to codify discrimination in the Constitution long before San Francisco's decision to uphold the state constitution."
As Newsom defended the city's policy and more couples exchanged vows at San Francisco City Hall, Bush's announcement also received lukewarm reactions from some California Republican leaders. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called on the state supreme court to resolve the deeply divisive issue. "We have a law in California...that makes it very clear that marriage is between a man and a woman, so I don't have to concern myself with anything else, " Schwarzenegger said, pointing to a 2000 ballot initiative that requires the state to recognize only marriages between a man and a woman as valid.
The governor's comments were echoed by Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), chairman of the California house rules committee: "I'm not supportive of amending the Constitution on this issue. I believe that this should go through the courts, and I think that we're at a point where it's not necessary."
A new Los Angeles Times poll released Tuesday found that Californians are evenly divided over a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, with 47% in favor and 46% opposed. The findings mirror a national ABC News-Washington Post poll released Tuesday that also found an even split on the issue.