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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

June 24, 2012 at 4:17 PM

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John Koster owns up to gaffe on federal gay-marriage law

In a roundtable debate on KING 5's "Up Front,'' which aired Sunday, Republican congressional candidate John Koster responded to a question about gay marriage like this: "There is no Federal Defense of Marriage Act that I know of. Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. They don't have a right to redefine marriage for all of us."

I saw several Democrats around the table raise eyebrows during taping of the show on Friday, although no one jumped on the obvious gaffe. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
koster.jpg
Koster, pictured at right, should know. He is the avowed social conservative in the seven-candidate race for the 1st Congressional District, and says anything other than opposite-sex marriage would "undermine the very cornerstone of our society." His five Democratic opponents all support gay marriage. (Go to the 13-minute mark of this segment to hear the gay marriage Q & A).

Koster called me about an hour after the debate to acknowledge the mistake. I was a "mystery" panelist on the show, hosted by Robert Mak.

"Of course I know there's DOMA," he said. He said he'd intended to say that with the Obama Administration's decision to not defend the law, the issue was left to the states.

During the show, I asked candidates to describe a mistake they'd made, and what they had learned from it. During my later interview with Koster, he said he should have responded to the "mistake" question on the show by correcting his DOMA answer. "I'll write that (answer) as one of those mistakes."

If so, he would have been one of the few candidates willing to specifically own up to a mistake. Only Laura Ruderman and Steve Hobbs really admitted a misstep. Ruderman had the best answer, regretting her vote in the Legislature to increase penalties for assaulting a referee.

I could have offered up this correction, for a dunderheaded misspelling of the name of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.


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