Elizabeth Edwards declares her support for gay marriage
Wife of former N.C. Senator turned presidential candidate ‘completely comfortable with gay marriage’
‘It seems to me we’re making issues of things that honestly … don’t matter.’
— Elizabeth Edwards
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful and former N.C. SenatorJohn Edwards, kicked off San Francisco’s annual gay Pride parade by splitting with her husband over support for legalized gay marriage.
“I don’t know why someone else’s marriage has anything to do with me,” Mrs. Edwards said at a news conference before the parade started. “I’m completely comfortable with gay marriage.”
She made the remark almost offhandedly in answering a question from reporters after she delivered a standard campaign stump speech during a breakfast hosted by the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, an influential San Francisco political organization. California’s presidential primary is Feb. 5, one of the earliest contests in the nation.
She conceded her support puts her at odds with her husband, a former Senator from North Carolina who has said that he supports civil unions among gay couples — but not same-sex marriages.
“John has been pretty clear about it, that he is very conflicted,” she said. “He has a deeply held belief against any form of discrimination, but that’s up against his being raised in the 1950s in a rural southern town.”
To date, no serious presidential candidate from either major political party has publicly supported gay marriage, including John Edwards. San Francisco area politicians and activists hailed Elizabeth Edwards’ appearance as another step for gay civil rights.
I think honestly he’s on a road that a lot of people in this country are on. … They’re struggling with this. Most of the gay and lesbian people I know … have seen their friends and family walking down that same road.
“It’s frustrating, I know,” she added, “but it’s a long distance from where we are now to the pews of a Southern Baptist church. So, John’s been as honest as he can about that.”
Edwards said she has come to the conclusion that the marriage of another couple “makes no difference to me,” just as it would make no difference in her opinion of a neighbor if he painted his house a different color.
“If he’s pleasant to me on the street, if his children don’t throw things in my yard, then I’m happy,” she said. “It seems to me we’re making issues of things that honestly … don’t matter.”
Many at the breakfast where Edwards was enthusiastically received noted the stark differences between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on issues that matter to gay and lesbian voters.
All Democratic candidates support the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gay people in the military, while none of the Republican candidates said they would support such a change.
All Democrats also support a measure recently passed in New Hampshire that allows civil unions. But the leading candidates — Edwards, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — remain opposed to same sex marriage.
Only Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio, and former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska support same-sex marriage, but they are not considered to be capable of capturing the Democratic nomination.