Top evangelical leaders in Washington criticized Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent comments supporting state-sanctioned gay “marriages”, on Wednesday August 25, 2004.
Cheney is "shooting from the hip and hitting the administration in the foot," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
"The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is the bedrock of society and should be addressed in a unified manner just as all other issues will be during the convention. If the Vice President perceives the problem of activist judges and their actions, as he stated in his remarks, then how can he not endorse the same solution the President and his pro-family allies have proposed? We urge Vice President Cheney to support President Bush and a constitutional amendment on marriage,” added Perkins.
Paul Weyrich, chairman and chief executive of the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative research group, agreed with Perkins in noting the “mixed signals” sent by Cheney.
"I think it is most unfortunate that the vice president saw fit to put his personal situation above what is good for the nation,” said Weyrich.
Cheney’s remarks came during a campaign appearance on Tuesday, upon the questioning of an audience member.
"I would like to know, sir, from your heart -- I don't want to know what your advisers say, or even what your top adviser thinks -- but I need to know what do you think about homosexual marriages,” and onlooker asked.
Cheney, whose daughter is homosexual, said the issue of same-sex “marriage” is "an issue that our family is very familiar with."
"The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction, or approval, is going to be granted by government ... to particular relationships," he said. "Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that basic fundamental decision in terms of defining what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when I ran and this question came up in the debate I had with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that's how it ought to best be handled."
Cheney then added, "My own preference is as I've stated."
Despite the “mixed signals” sent by the Vice President, evangelicals said they know the President himself stands firmly against such “marriages.” Consequently, they said, the comments do not have lasting political consequences for the re-election of Bush himself.
"This is not surprising," Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, said. "It's a position he has always held. It's just that this is the first time he has articulated it since the president announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Politically, I don't think it will have much of a ripple effect, although if it were Cheney running for president, it would guarantee the defeat of the Republican ticket."
Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition, expressed disdain for Cheney, but agreed with Land, saying, "I don't think it hurts; the base votes for the president, not the vice president.”
Land also said Bush’s position is what matters most.
"The president's position is strongly supportive of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is the only position that counts," Land said. "If this were reversed, and Cheney were president and Bush were vice president ... it would guarantee the defeat of the Republican ticket."
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Republican Party included a vigorous push to ban gay “marriages” as part of its platform.
"Attempts to redefine marriage in a single city or state could have serious consequences throughout the country, and anything less than a constitutional amendment, passed by Congress and ratified by the states, is vulnerable to being overturned by activist judges," the draft platform reads.