Pointedly criticizing the major Democratic presidential candidate
for failing to support same-sex marriage, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said Tuesday in
San Francisco that the matter is a "fundamental civil rights issue ... that
shouldn't even be a close question.''
"I can't, for the life of me, understand why I'm the only one who's
taking this position with such emphasis,'' Kucinich said following a speech
and question-and-answer session at the Palace Hotel sponsored by the Bar
Association of San Francisco. "We have to be courageous in protecting people's
rights ... and I don't think people should expect any less from a president.''
The issue of same-sex marriage is likely to play a role in next year's
election in light of a recent Massachusetts state court decision upholding the
right of same-sex couples to marry in that state. Opponents in Congress have
begun to push a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and
President Bush repeated in an interview with ABC News Tuesday night that his
administration was considering whether to support such an amendment.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, two
other Democrats making long-shot bids for their party's nomination, also
support same-sex marriage, while much of the rest of the Democratic field
supports providing all couples with civil unions -- legal rights similar to
those gained by marriage.
Kucinich also expressed frustration with the way the media has used the
long-shot label, focusing its attentions on the horse race and meteoric rise
of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in recent weeks.
"So much of the coverage has focused on endorsements, money, polls,'' he
said. "It's sloppy journalism. It doesn't require any context or thought. ...
America faces serious challenges, and yet (reporters) prattle on, endlessly''
about such strategic matters. "We have a right to demand accountability (from
In the wake of the capture of Saddam Hussein, the Ohio congressman also
delivered a tough critique of Bush's policies in Iraq, calling for an end to
contracting "sweetheart deals'' with firms like Halliburton and charging that
the White House policies there have made America -- and the world -- more
vulnerable to terrorism.
Kucinich spoke to about 70 people as part of the Bar Association's
candidate forums, closing out a three-day campaign trip to the Bay Area.
The presence of Kucinich in the Bay Area -- one of the nation's
progressive strongholds -- highlighted a tug-of-war between the former
Cleveland mayor and Dean, the Democratic front-runner, who are vying for
support from the most liberal members of their party based on their vocal
opposition to the war in Iraq.
Dean drew thousands of passionate supporters to the Masonic Auditorium on
Sunday for a campaign benefit concert headlined by Bonnie Raitt.
Kucinich's gatherings were generally far more modest. However, like Dean,
he draws a loyal and passionate group of supporters who laud his outspokenness
and have spread his message through the Internet.
"He's strong ... and he'd certainly be a great improvement over
(President) Bush,'' said Matt Gonzalez, the San Francisco supervisor and Green
Party mayoral candidate who Tuesday endorsed Kucinich.
Gonzalez said he had met Dean, but there has been "a lot of
disappointment among progressives'' regarding some of Dean's positions --
particularly his opposition to same-sex marriage and to medical marijuana. By
contrast, he said, Greens and Democrats appreciate that Kucinich is
"unapologetic about the progressive nature of what he represents.''
Kucinich won applause Tuesday as he lambasted Bush's foreign policy in
Iraq. The Democratic candidate recited a litany of what he said were
misrepresentations by the Bush administration to justify U.S. military action.
"We were told there was an imminent threat, we were told there were
weapons of mass destruction, that the subtext of the invasion was that Iraq
had something to do with 9-11. It did not,'' Kucinich said. "(We were told)
that it was al Qaeda's role in 9/11; which it did not. That it was connected
to the anthrax attack; which it was not. That it was tied to purchase of
uranium in Niger; which it was not.
"That (Iraq) posed an immediate threat to the country; which it did not.
That it had the intention of attacking the United States; which it did not.
That it had the capability of attacking the United States; which it did not.
"The Bible says you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you
free,'' he said. "This is a moment when we need to be free of the doctrines
which promote fear in this country.''
Kucinich said the arrest of Hussein called for "a whole new direction''
for U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, and America should now "take a position that
is consistent with the direction of the world ... and step away from
The Ohio congressman predicted that California Democrats would be
attracted to his candidacy.
"California wants someone who is independent ... who isn't afraid to
challenge the system,'' he said. "Californians appreciate my willingness to be
uncompromising in saying we should get out of Iraq, in challenging our
utilities, in demanding health care for all. Californians understand what my
campaign is all about.''
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle