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Kerry for doubters.

So you have doubts, about John Kerry. Believe me, you're not alone. It's hard to be psyched up by a candidate who opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment but supports the one that may appear on the Massachusetts state ballot in 2006. That's not exactly a flip-flop; it's more like a hedge. But whatever you call it, it's something short of a firm commitment.

When two gay friends brought up Kerry's inconsistency on this score, I started to berate them for being shortsighted. But then I remembered that these two men live in Massachusetts, where they were married recently by a real justice of the peace. In two years their nuptials could be annulled. Marriage rights are very real to them. They're voting for Kent, for all the obvious reasons, and so am I. But he reminds me of a tease who acts interested yet won't go all the way.

Still, I'm willing to cut Kerry some slack. He has a fine voting record on gay rights; he even opposed the Defense of Marriage Act. But that was when he was a senator from one of America's most progressive states. As a presidential candidate, he can't afford to be so outspoken. That's enraging, but it's a fact of political life. There's a reason why the only Democratic contenders to endorse same sex marriage were those who didn't have a real shot at victory. In the current conservative climate, liberals have to pick their fights, and this one isn't winnble right now.

In presidential politics you have to look at the company a candidate keeps. And Bush's dependence on the religious right obliges hint to oppress us. Don't full yourself into believing that his backing for the Federal Marriage Amendment is only symbolic. As governor of Texas, Bush once praised that state's sodomy law as "a symbolic gesture of traditional values." Tell that to the two gay Texans who were busted in bed, setting off the famous Lawrence v. Texas case. Symbolic commitments have a way of becoming all too real. And though Lawrence led the Supremes to throw out sodomy laws, once a constitutional amendment is passed no court can intervene.

No, we won't get federal marriage rights in a Kerry administration (though his support for civil unions is nothing to sneer at). But weigh his equivocation on this issue against the Republican Party's proud bigotry. The GOP platform calls for the repeal of laws that merely confer domestic-partner benefits--and not a peep of protest against that plank from the "compassionate conservative" at the top of the ticket.

My do-rag is off to the Log Cabin Republicans for their refusal to endorse Bush, but they should have known when they backed him in 2000 that his basic agenda would spell trouble for us. Take Bush's commitment to appoint conservative judges. By the end of his second term (if we should be so cursed), there won't be many liberal justices left to overturn the flagrantly unconstitutional marriage laws now popping up in state after state.

Think about that before you decide to sit out this election. As we learned in 2000, one vote lost to our friends is one vote gained by our enemies. That doesn't mean you can pin all your hopes on Kerry. But politics these days is not about crossing the Jordan. It's about securing small improvements, and for a community whose rights are as fragile as ours, that can make a big difference.

It's often said that this race is about keeping America safe. For most people, that resonates with 9/11, but for us, it has a special meaning. Our lives are not the only thing at stake so are our rights as citizens. The choice is between a Democrat who wavers when he has to and a Republican who lashes out because he can.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather face flip-flops than the boot.
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Title Annotation:left hook; John F. Kerry
Author:Goldstein, Richard
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 26, 2004
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