Obama Cites "Tradition" To Strike Down Possible Amendment, McCain Channels Republican Spirit

Obama and McCain Define Marriage At Rick Warren Forum

Barack Obama and John McCain battled for so-called values voters at Pastor Rick Warren’s California mega church this weekend.

Appearing before 2,800 Evangelicals, the presidential hopefuls hoped to score big with their perspectives on abortion, the Supreme Court and, yes, gay marriage.

[Image via LA Times]

Obama appeared first and took Warren’s questioning like a champ. When asked to define marriage, Obama toed the holy line by nodding to man and woman, while also highlighting his own faith in nuptials, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. [Applause] Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

Warren went on to ask Obama whether he would endorse a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as such. And, as he has oft-said, the Senator replied in the negative. When asked to explain himself, Obama tied his political believes to the nation’s “tradition,” a key word in such devoted circles:

Because historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It’s been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. I mean, let’s break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern that — about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not — that for gay partners to want to visit each other in the hospital for the state to say, you know what, that’s all right, I don’t think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view.

Though McCain’s political view didn’t differ too sharply from Obama’s, his reasoning and blunt responses indicate he hasn’t really pondered the personal aspect of marriage

Apparently uneasy about the matter, McCain offered a far more memorized response to Warren’s queer questioning. When asked to define marriage, the Republican spouted this canned, almost robotic answer, “Union – a union between man and a woman, between one man and one woman. That’s my definition of marriage.” McCain then tried quite curtly to steer the conversation back to abortion and the Supreme Court. Warren, however, wasn’t having it and asked McCain about California’s Proposition 8, which hopes to overturn this year’s gay marriage win. Saying he believes the state’s Supreme Court made the wrong decision, McCain reiterated his support for federalism – the state’s right to determine its same-sex fate.

[Here’s McCain discussing abortion, the gays and other matters. The homo bits come at the 1:12 mark.]
The Arizona Senator went on to say that while he doesn’t back a constitutional amendment on the matter, he supports his own state’s anti-marriage initiative. He would, however, support an amendment if a federal court attempted to criss-cross state lines:

In my state, I hope we will make that decision, and other states, they have to recognize the unique status between man and woman. And that doesn’t mean that people can’t enter into legal agreements. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have the rights of all citizens. I’m not saying that. I am saying that we should preserve the unique status of marriage between one man and one woman.

And if a federal court — if a federal court decided that my state of Arizona had to observe what the state of Massachusetts decided, then I would favor a constitutional amendment. Until then, I believe the states should make the decisions within their own states.

Earlier in the interview, when asked about his greatest moral failure, McCain said “the failure of my first marriage.”

Supreme Court justices also proved to be a hot topic, with Warren asking the candidates which Justices they would not have endorsed. Obama named Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia. For his part, McCain went for the left-leaning law lovers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. These four, he intimated, have been “legislating from the bench,” a favorite term in the right-wing world. The crowd, naturally, went wild, and seemed to favor the Republican over his Democratic rival, who garnered less enthusiastic applause throughout. But, you know the odds were kind of stacked against him.