Is Gay Marriage a Major Election 2004 Issue?

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Jan. 21, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FNC JUDICIAL ANALYST AND GUEST HOST: What the president is talking about there, of course, in his State of the Union (search) address last night is marriage between a man and a woman.

Gay marriage could be a hot-button issue during this presidential campaign with the president's gay supporters caught in the middle.

Patrick Guerrierro is executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans (search), the party's largest gay and lesbian organization. He joins me now from Washington. And that's today's big question, Patrick. Is gay marriage going to be a major campaign issue come this November?

PATRICK GUERRIERRO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: We certainly hope not. A critical piece of that is whether the president comes out in full support of a constitutional amendment. We strongly urge him against it. That is the type of divisive message that will split up the Republican Party, create a cultural war in America and take the focus away from what most American families are concerned about. They're threatened by the war on terrorism. They're threatened by job insecurity. They're not threatened by gay and lesbian Americans who pay taxes, who follow the laws and who simply want to have tax fairness for their families.

NAPOLITANO: If the president, Patrick, comes out four square in support of a constitutional amendment, will it pass? Will it get two thirds of each house of Congress and three quarters of the states behind it in order to enact it and make it part of the constitution?

GUERRIERRO: The president's support would make it more likely it could pass. It's a tough hill climb. We would as an organization, Log Cabin, who supported the president in the war on terrorism and its cutting of taxes on American families, would put all its resources and all its energies into fighting that type of an amendment effort.

The Constitution is a sacred document and is a special document that we shouldn't tinker with in the midst of a national debate. I know this issue around gay marriage and civil unions is new for most Americans including the president. We shouldn't have this quick reflex to tinker with such an important document. Britney Spears is a larger threat to traditional marriage than any solid tax paying gay and lesbian family.

NAPOLITANO: What is the president's objection to the idea of gay marriage? And why would he even consider wanting to make this a federal issue by putting it into the constitution?

GUERRIERRO: That's one of our main issues here. I respect that the president has a difference of opinion on gay marriage. In fact, some of the leading Democratic contenders including John Kerry and Howard Dean oppose gay marriage. They support civil unions. What frightens us is this need to go so far and pander so far with the radical right that we would consider amending the constitution. This is a state issue. President Bush as a former governor of Texas has always been a good advocate for federalism. Vice President Cheney in the 2000 debate said he thought it was state issue. We ought to let the states do the business of experimenting with social policy and figure out what works right and what doesn't work right. And I believe in the end most Americans, fair-minded Americans, will recognize that all gay and lesbian folks are looking for is to have stable, loving relationships and give back to their communities and societies...

NAPOLITANO: A lot of conservatives, Patrick, even Conservatives who believe that gay unions are immoral or wrong and shouldn't be sanctioned by the state, have made the argument that you just made, that this may be a national issue, it's not a federal issue. And if you don't want to get married or live around gays that are married, go to Texas. And if you do, go to Massachusetts. That's the true, I think, conservative states' rights' argument.

GUERRIERRO:  And in an odd way, Log Cabin has actually joined with Bob Barr, a person we disagree with a lot, who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, who said this is a very creepy thing for conservatives to do to start tinkering with a federal statute.

NAPOLITANO: I got to let you go, Patrick.

GUERRIERRO:  Thanks for letting me be on.

NAPOLITANO: Thanks for joining us.

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