This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Amendment or not, the same-sex marriage issue is going to be a hot one in this year's election, but is it a winner for President Bush? I'm joined now by Lori Waters of the grassroots conservative group Eagle Forum and Christopher Barron of the Log Cabin Republicans, that's the country's biggest gay Republican organization.
Christopher, the big question: Should President Bush make same-sex marriage a campaign issue? Does he gain more than he loses?
CHRISTOPHER BARRON, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: He absolutely should not make it a big campaign issue. The reality is that this president ought to be talking about the issues that average Americans care about. I, for one, believe that this president has a record that he should be proud of, a record of jump-starting this economy, a record of fighting a just war in Iraq and a record of defending our homeland. He should be talking about those issues that resonate with all Americans.
GIBSON: Look, there's obviously some political calculation going on.
GIBSON: So you could say, "Well, it would energize the conservative base in the Republican Party and get them all excited and they'd come out to vote." Do you gain more or lose more by doing this? What about gay Republicans?
BARRON: I think you lose more than. Clearly one million openly gay and lesbian folks went to the polls in 2000 and voted for this president. The president's support for this amendment has not only jeopardized the endorsement of my organization, but has also jeopardized the president being able to receive even a single vote of those one million Americans. And not to mention, it's not just gay and lesbian Americans who voted for him: it's our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, the people we go to church with.
GIBSON: OK. Let me go to Lori Waters. Lori, I'll ask you the same thing. You know, in this political calculus, and it's important for the president to get all of the votes he can — and it's going to be close — should he be trying to take this hill? Should he be making this an issue?
LORI WATERS, EAGLE FORUM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Absolutely. This is a winning issue for Republicans and for the president. You have the case of Missouri where they're going to actually have a ballot initiative on the marriage issue and the Democrats fought tooth and nail to keep this off the November ballot, and they put it on the primary ballot because they know that this will turn out the vote for George W. Bush. It is a winning issue.
Every poll that has been done shows that vast Americans across the country believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. When this vote is put to the people, the people vote for traditional marriage. It's a winning issue.
GIBSON: Yes, but Lori, there's a middle ground, and that's the same thing that you do in the military, "Don't ask, don't tell." Does the president need to be out waving the flag on this issue when he's going to lose Christopher Barron's million votes?
WATERS: Well, Christopher's going to have to make that decision for himself. There are people like Tammy Bruce, who's a leading lesbian, who's part of the Democrats for Bush. So, he can make the choice for himself, but the fact is, this is a winning issue with your typical soccer mom and your NASCAR dad. These people believe in marriage, and those are the people who really need to turn out the vote for the president.
GIBSON: OK, Lori. Before I go back to Christopher, this particular amendment that was proposed and failed would simply ban a judge from ordering a legislature to OK a same-sex marriage or a civil union. What happens if the legislature just takes it up and decides, “All right, we're going to make gay marriage legal?"
BARRON: The fact is that this amendment was about much more than simply saying that a judge couldn't declare marriage as anything but between a man and a woman, and that's why people like Senator John Warner went to the floor yesterday and said they would be unable to vote for the federal marriage amendment because they believed, and rightfully so, that it wasn't just about defining marriage, it would also threaten civil unions and domestic partner benefits. The reality is that the far right was dealt an embarrassing loss today. They were afraid to have an up or down vote on this amendment and people all across the country realized that.
WATERS: It's the Democrats who kept us from having an up or down vote on the constitutional amendment, but also what happened today is the House Judiciary Committee exercised another power they have, which is limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts. That vote will be on the floor next week in the House, and that requires just a majority. So the marriage issue is not going away. We fought this battle for decades, and it's going to continue, especially in the states.
GIBSON: But Lori, why can't you and Christopher debate this? Both of you: George W. Bush supporters, both of you representing many people who are George W. Bush supporters that the Democrats must just love this little scene of Republicans fighting over this.
WATERS: Look, the Democrats are fighting amongst themselves as well. I mean, you've got the grassroots, the old Reagan Democrats that do support marriage, so...
GIBSON: Oh, I know that. Christopher, don't they just love this?
BARRON: We ought to be talking...
WATERS: You know, there's going to be debate on the issues. It's good for us.
BARRON: We ought to be talking about issues that bring Republicans together.
WATERS: This does.
BARRON: That's the reality here. The reality is it doesn't bring Republicans together. If it brought Republicans together, you wouldn't have a dozen or more GOP senators voicing their opposition to this amendment...
WATERS: You had six votes against it today and now on a target list.
BARRON: The president is going to have a hard time going to New Hampshire and Maine...
GIBSON: OK. You guys are going to have to take it outside. Lori Waters, thanks. Christopher Barron, thanks. Appreciate you both coming in.