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Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Cheney strays from Bush on issue of gay marriage

By Todd Dvorak
The Associated Press

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DAVENPORT, Iowa — Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, drew criticism from foes of gay marriage yesterday after he distanced himself from President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

At a campaign rally in this Mississippi River town, Cheney spoke supportively about gay relationships, saying "freedom means freedom for everyone," when asked about his stand on gay marriage. "Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with," Cheney told an audience that included his daughter. "With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone. ... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.

"The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage," he said.

Bush backs an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting gay marriage, a move Cheney says was prompted by various judicial rulings, including the action in Massachusetts that made gay marriage legal.

"I think his perception was that the courts, in effect, were beginning to change, without allowing the people to be involved," Cheney said. Addressing Bush's position, Cheney said, "At this point, say, my own preference is as I have stated, but the president makes policy for the administration. He's made it clear that he does, in fact, support a constitutional amendment on this issue."

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said, "I find it hard to believe the vice president would stray from the administration's position on defense policy or tax policy," Perkins said. "For many pro-family voters, protecting traditional marriage ranks ahead of the economy and job creation as a campaign issue."

Steven Fisher, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, said Cheney's remarks show a stark difference with Bush's efforts "to put discrimination in the Constitution."

"President Bush is feeling the heat. The administration has been using gay Americans to drive a wedge into the electorate. There are millions of American families who have gay family members and friends, who are offended by the president's use of discrimination," Fisher said.

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