Gay Marriage Issue Straddles Party Lines

In an indication that gay marriage is not a left-right, red-blue issue, some Republican loyalists are criticizing President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (search) has come out against both gay marriage and same sex unions.

In between them is Edwards' John Kerry (search) said he supports civil unions, but he believes any decisions should be left to the state.

Republicans too are all over the map on how the issue of gay marriage should be handled.

"I'm not supportive of amending the Constitution on this issue,” said Rep. David Dreier (search), chair of California's Republican congressional delegation. “I believe that this should go through the courts, and I think that we're at a point where it's not necessary."

Fellow California Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis (search) expressed skepticism about the president's initiative, and said, "At this moment I feel changing the Constitution should be a last resort on almost any issue."

Although Bush hopes that by getting in front of the gay marriage issue he will solidify his base, the issue cuts deeper than party politics. Stalwart members of both parties have wide-ranging views based on their regional backgrounds and their personal relationships with homosexuals.

In the 2000 election, Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a gay daughter, said that decisions on same-sex unions should be made by the states. Cheney has since said that he will support Bush's decision.

“Dick Cheney said we ought to leave it up to the states and we agree with Dick Cheney on that,” said Steve Elmendorf, John Kerry’s deputy campaign manager.

Edwards, Kerry’s top rival for the Democratic nomination, has opinions on gay marriage that are actually very similar to those of the president.

“I don't personally support gay marriage myself ... because I don't think it's the right thing to do," the North Carolina senator said while campaigning in Georgia on Tuesday.

Edwards did disagree with the president’s method in addressing the issue, saying in a statement that it is something states should decide.

“Washington has no business playing politics with this issue. Marriage is left to the states today, and should remain with the states,” he said.

Social policy has always been divisive in the Republican Party, which relies on the backing of both social and fiscal conservatives. Abortion, gay marriage and other social issues have been hard to sell to more moderate Republicans.

"The president would have been better today discussing an attack on infidelity and divorce than on gay and lesbian families,” said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans (search), a group of gay Republicans.

Polls show that a majority of Americans prefer that lawmakers keep their hands off gay marriage. Majorities oppose both a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages and efforts to legalize civil unions.

In a new poll, 41 percent of respondents said they would favor an amendment to the Constitution barring any state from legalizing same-sex marriages. Forty-eight percent would oppose such an amendment. They poll of 1,943 people was taken between Feb. 14 and 23 by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey (search).

However, when it comes to state laws, just 30 percent would favor a law allowing gays and lesbians to marry a partner of the same sex, while 64 percent would oppose it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.