This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," February 14, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Handling the hot potato issue of gay marriage is the subject of this week's trail dust. As Massachusetts continues to tussle with gay marriage, both President Bush (search) and John Kerry (search) are struggling to stake their ground on the issue.

President Bush is likely to back a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage while trying not to appear antigay to swing voters, and Kerry is trying to deal with two flip-flops on this issue, saying that he's against gay marriage while opposing a ban on them, and saying that it's up to the states to decide, but then voting against the Defense of Marriage Act, which would do just that.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I tried to ... count the metaphors in there ... I ran out of gas at about six.

KONDRACKE: Well, look, last week I said that President Bush deserved credit for standing up to the right wing and not going for this amendment. Now it looks as though I was dead wrong, and that he's going to cave in after all, and back this amendment.

And, you know, I said that this wasn't necessary and that he wasn't going to do it. It's not necessary ... I mean, there's a long road ... legal road before a, a constitutional amendment has to come up. And I just don't see the necessity for doing this except to, to try to embarrass Kerry and to try to curry favor with your right- wing pals.

BARNES: Mort, you don't really believe that, do you?

KONDRACKE: Yes, I do.

BARNES: Don't you look at the polls, you know? About two-thirds of Americans oppose gay marriage. Now...

KONDRACKE: ... wait a minute...

BARNES: ... my turn, wait a minute.

KONDRACKE: OK.

BARNES: The president is not invoking some wedge issue when he comes out for a constitutional amendment, and maybe he won't. But I suspect he will.

Banning gay marriage, not banning civil unions but banning gay marriage, what he's trying to do is, take on something ... issue that would upset thousands of years of civilization.

Heterosexual marriage is one of the underpinnings of our civilization. Should he just stand by and let it be thrown out the window? I don't think so.

Now, you're right, one thing about a constitutional amendment, and I think you were suggesting this, even popular ones have an awful hard time getting passed. I mean, it takes two-thirds of the House and Senate, three-fourths of the states.

You know, it's pretty easy to think of 13 states that may not go along with such an amendment. That doesn't mean you don't try, though.

And, and, but I can think of even more popular amendments, like a school prayer amendment and so on, that have never gotten anywhere.

KONDRACKE: Now, look, gays represent 2 to 5 percent of the population. If, if...

BARNES: Oh, I think...

KONDRACKE: ... 2 to 5...

BARNES: No, I don't think so.

KONDRACKE: Oh, yes, 2 to 5 percent...

BARNES: No ... I don't believe that.

KONDRACKE: ... of the population, and, look, and if some of them want to commit themselves to each other for life ... you know ... I mean, that's not going to upset civilization, it is not.

BARNES: Look, the definition of marriage is a man and a woman. Yes, I mean, that's what it's been for thousands of years. Should Bush or me or ... just stand by, The Weekly Standard just stand by and say, Oh, gee, just change that definition, we don't care?

KONDRACKE: ... but it, we're, we're opening the way to human, to human freedom and, and as a matter of fact...

BARNES: They can associate with whoever they want.

KONDRACKE: ... except that they get no ... they get no legal rights ... I mean, they do not...

BARNES: ... civil unions, those are, those are going to be...

KONDRACKE: You for civil unions?

BARNES: ... no, I'm not, but ...

KONDRACKE: Well, why not?

BARNES: ... I would certainly allow states to do that.

KONDRACKE: Why wouldn't you, why aren't you in favor of civil unions? Why shouldn't people who are committed to each other have the right of inheritance and, and child visitation and hospital visitation and all that kind of stuff?

BARNES: ... I don't have time to explain it to you, but I can, but it would take longer than the next minute or two.

KONDRACKE: ... all right.

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