John Edwards on Civil Rights
Democratic Nominee for Vice President; NC Jr Senator
A: We both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. But we also believe that gay and lesbians and gay and lesbian couples, those who have been in long-term relationships, deserve to be treated respectfully, they deserve to have benefits. For example, a gay couple now has a very difficult time, one, visiting the other when they're in the hospital, or, for example, if, heaven forbid, one of them were to pass away, they have trouble even arranging the funeral.
I mean, those are not the kind of things that Kerry and I believe in. But we do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Bush is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that is completely unnecessary. Under the law of this country for the last 200 years, no state has been required to recognize another state's marriage. North Carolina would not be required to recognize a marriage from Massachusetts.
EDWARDS: I do. But I believe that this is an issue that ought to be decided in the states. I think the federal government should honor whatever decision is made by the states. I would not support the Defense of Marriage Act today, if there were a vote today.
Q: You would not vote for it?
EDWARDS: I would not. I would not for a very simple reason. There's a part of it that I agree with, and there's a part of it I disagree with. The Defense of Marriage Act specifically said that the federal government is not required to recognize gay marriage even if a state chooses to do so. I disagree with that. I think states should be allowed to make that decision. And the federal government shouldn't do it. The part I agree with is the states should not be required to recognize marriages from other states. That's already in the law, by the way, without DOMA. The law today does not require one state to recognize the marriage of another state.
A: There are a whole group of issues on which we can move the country forward. For example, the recognition of partnership benefits, changing our immigration and adoption laws, so that they provide equality to gay and lesbian couples, a re-examination of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy with our military leadership. There are fundamental things that we still haven't done.
A: No. I believe flag burning is a despicable act, but I do not support a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning.
EDWARDS: Yes, because what happened with the Defense of Marriage Act is it took away the power of states, like Vermont, to be able to do what they chose to do about civil unions, about these kinds of marriage issues. Massachusetts has just made a decision that embraces the notion of gay marriage. I think these are decisions that the states should have the power to make. And the Defense of Marriage Act would have taken away that power. And I think that's wrong. That power should not be taken away from the states.
Q: Should other states be obliged to honor and recognize the civil union which Governor Dean signed?
EDWARDS: I think it's a decision that should be made on a state-by-state basis. I think each state should be able to make its own decision about what they embrace.
A: The things I have seen growing up -- segregation, discrimination -- are a part of everything I am today. We still live in two Americas, and we should be willing to tell the American people that. We have two economies. We have two tax systems. Until we have economic and educational equality in America, we're never going to be able to do things we need to do for African-Americans.
A: What I'll do as president is, first of all, fund the legislation, and second, make sure that every single person in America gets a chance to be on a voter registration roll and that they get a chance to vote no matter what the level of the community that they live in. We need to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to both register and vote.
Edwards said the flag is a "very divisive symbol" and it is wrong to stereotype Southerners. "It's like saying to any group of voters, `you don't know what's best for you. We know what's best for you,'" Edwards said. "There's an elitism and condescension associated with that attitude that's enormously dangerous to us" and that voters want to be "treated with respect."
A: South Carolina, as a matter of compromise, displays the Confederate flag on a flagpole in front of the state capitol. Because I grew up in the South and believe that the Confederate flag is a very divisive symbol I have stated publicly a number of times that I believe that South Carolina should remove the flag from the state capital grounds.
EDWARDS: Dean still has not said he was wrong [to seek those votes]. Were you wrong to say that?
DEAN: No, I wasn't. People who vote who fly the Confederate flag, I think they are wrong because the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. But I think there are lot of poor people who fly that flag because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968 with their southern race strategy. I am tired of being divided by race in this country. I want to go down to the South and talk to people who don't make any more than anybody else up north but keep voting Republican against their own economic interests.
EDWARDS: The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do. I grew up in the South. I grew up with the very people that you're talking about. The vast majority don't drive around with Confederate flags on pickup trucks.
EDWARDS: There are provisions, which get no attention, which did good things. The reason we need changes is because it gave too much discretion to an attorney general who does not deserve it. The attorney general told us that he would not abuse his discretion. He has abused his discretion. We know that now.
EDWARDS: I support dramatic revision of the PATRIOT Act. The last thing we should be doing is turning over our privacy, our liberties, our freedom, our constitutional rights to John Ashcroft. First, the very notion that this administration can arrest American citizens on American soil, label them an enemy combatant, put them in prison, keep them there indefinitely-this runs contrary to everything we believe in this country. The notion that they are going to libraries to find out what books people are checking out, going to book stores to find out what books are being purchased. What we have to remember-and I will when I am president-is what it is we are supposed to be fighting for, what it is we are supposed to be protecting. These very liberties, this privacy, these constitutional rights-that's what's at stake in this fight. And we cannot let people like John Ashcroft take them away in an effort to protect ourselves.
A: I supported the Patriot Act because it contained provisions needed to strengthen our security, but I also believe this administration has abused its powers in implementing the law. One key provision of the act requires Congress to revisit key provisions of the law. I opposed efforts to repeal that "sunset," and Congress must rigorously review the Patriot Act-as well as any new legislation-to see whether it advances our security and honors our values.
EDWARDS: I believe there is a fundamental right to privacy. I do not believe the government belongs in people's bedrooms. I think that applies to both gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples.
MOSELEY-BRAUN: I absolutely agree that gay-lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are entitled to privacy as everybody else.
LIEBERMAN: I don't [support that law]. In fact, the law relates not only to gay couples, but to heterosexual couples as well, and it's a violation of the right of privacy. There is a case right now before the Supreme Court regarding a similar Texas law. I hope and believe it'll be struck down because Lord knows the prosecutors have more important things to do than prosecute cases like this. They ought to be prosecuting drug peddlers and criminals and all the rest.
EDWARDS: I share that very serious concern. [But] the problem with the PATRIOT Act is not the law itself, it's the way it's being administered, particularly by Attorney General Ashcroft. We have had consistent problems with this. It is why I have proposed taking away from the FBI the responsibility of fighting terrorism and simultaneously setting up an independent watchdog group to make sure that none of us are losing our civil liberties.
GRAHAM: One of the things that I would do, is to see that we put the Civil War behind us. Frankly, we Southerners have allowed the most extreme groups within our society to steal the images of the Confederacy and then use them as sources of division and hatred within our population.
MOSELEY-BRAUN: We have to take very seriously the assault on our civil liberties that Ashcroft and the Bush administration have begun and that Congress opened the door for with the PATRIOT Act. That act arguably violates the First, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Eighth, and the Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution, have opened the door to e-mails being tapped and phones being tapped and searches and people disappearing in this country for the first time. We have a real crisis in America when it comes to our civil liberties, and I do hope that this act will be repealed.
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Amends the Small Business Act with respect to the women's business centers program to provide Small Business Administration funding authority for nonprofit organizations conducting projects for the benefit of small businesses owned and controlled by women. Increases from 30 to 54 the percentage of appropriated women's business center funds to be used during FY 2004 for sustained women's business center projects.
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