September 2, 2004
NEW YORK — Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he would support a constitutional amendment to ensure states are not forced to recognize gay marriages.
But McCain, R-Ariz., also reiterated his opposition to an amendment banning gay weddings. Instead, McCain said that, if necessary, he would support a constitutional change ensuring each state has the option of not recognizing weddings between homosexuals performed in other states. Such an amendment is not needed yet, he added.
“I believe very strongly in the sanctity of heterosexual marriage,” McCain told Arizona delegates to the Republican National Convention during their final breakfast meeting. “I am a traditional Republican. I believe that states should make decisions wherever possible on issues affecting the states.
“I will do everything in my power to continue to protect the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. I strongly believe that the last step, not the first step, in that process is amending the constitution of the United States of America.”
McCain's opposition to an amendment banning homosexual marriages puts him at odds with President Bush, who says activist judges have made it necessary.
The problem arises because the constitution requires binding agreements made in one state to be recognized in all states. State judges in Massachusetts have ruled it is unconstitutional to bar marriages between homosexuals. The issue is working its way through the courts in other states as well.
In Arizona, the court of appeals has upheld a state law that says marriage is between a man and a woman. The state Supreme Court upheld that ruling without comment.
McCain supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed in 1996 that relieves states of their obligation to recognize marriages performed in other states. He voted against a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman when it came up for a procedural test vote in July.
The courts have not overturned the 1996 law, so changing the constitution is not required at this point, McCain said.
Changing the law requires the passage of a bill in both houses of Congress, and the signature of the president. Amending the constitution requires the approval of two-thirds of the House and the Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
Because of McCain's hectic schedule on behalf of the president, Thursday was the first time he was able to address the Arizona delegates. He also hosted a reception for the Arizona delegation Wednesday night.
McCain's celebrity status at the convention, and the prime-time speech in praise of the president Monday, has fueled speculation by pundits and publications here that he is laying the groundwork for his own bid for the presidency in 2008.
However, McCain told reporters after meeting with the delegates that he has no plans to run for president in four years. But he also added he is not ruling it out.
“I have not contemplated it,” McCain, who turned 68 Sunday, said of a presidential bid.