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Views mixed on gay marriage

Friday, May 11, 2012

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Two local candidates are weighing in on President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriages, which some people have viewed as a political ploy while others have applauded his courage to come out on the issue.

Virgil Goode of Rocky Mount, who is the Constitution Party’s pick to challenge Obama, said he does “not favor gay marriage.”

“I have never favored it. I have been a consistent opponent” of it, he said.

Obama on Wednesday said he now supports gay marriage. But, the president said, individual states should make a final decision on the matter.

Goode, who said he has collected enough signatures to get him on the ballot in 17 states, said that during his 12 years in Congress, “I was always a co-sponsor of the federal marriage amendment, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

He believes the impact of Obama’s stand on the issue will be mixed.

“In some areas, he will gain votes, and in some areas, he will lose” votes, Goode said.

Anthony Flaccavento, an Abingdon Democrat who plans to challenge 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, in November, also said the impact will be mixed, but he thinks the president took a risk.

The announcement was “a risky thing, because there is a group of people who are always going to dislike him and not want him to win a second term,” Flaccavento said. “Another group is a little more balanced” but has some members that are more conservative.

Overall, “I would say he took on more risk by this than a political gain. ... Ultimately though, I think young people will applaud the decision,” Flaccavento said, adding that he supports Obama’s position.

Based on his knowledge of gays and lesbians “in cemented, long-term relationships,” Flaccavento said he has observed that those relationships are “every bit as good, and every bit as bad, as heterosexual relationships,” with “two human beings doing their best.”

“Personally,” he said, “I can’t tell any difference” in the struggles of same-sex relationships versus heterosexual relationships.

“Gay people being in a committed relationship, whether it’s a civil union or a marriage, does no harm to anyone else,” Flaccavento said. “It simply does no harm to anyone, and I do not think we should restrict their rights.”

W.C. Fowlkes, chairman of the Henry County Republican Committee, said Obama’s announcement was political positioning.

“I’m not really into their minds to know if it was a planned tactical move or if (Vice President Joe) Biden jumped the gun (and Obama) had to step up to the plate,” Fowlkes said.

Biden said in an interview Sunday that he is comfortable with gay marriage.

“The biggest thing about (Obama’s announcement) was that he took a position, but there is nothing binding to it,” Fowlkes said. “It just gives a lot more umph to the movement to marriage between like sexes.”

Coming from the president, the comment carries more weight than if someone else said it, and it probably will have an effect on how some of the legislators look at it going forward, Fowlkes said.

Fowlkes noted, however, that the Republican Party “and myself believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Jeff Williams, chairman of the Martinsville Republican Committee, said he is “disappointed in the president’s position, although I realize he’s very desperate for re-election, and he has to re-excite his base.”

The Democratic base of 2012 is “left leaning. The Democrats of 2012 are not the Democrats of the ’60s or ’70s or even before that when they were considered to be more conservative,” Williams said.

“I am absolutely opposed to (Obama’s position), but I understand what he’s doing,” Williams said. “(The president) is just doing what he has to do for his survival ... (and this) was the best he could do.”

Ward Armstrong, the former minority leader in the Virginia House of Delegates until he lost to Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, last year, questioned why Obama’s comment is considered a political move by some people.

“Does anybody ever stop to think that maybe it’s really how he feels?” he asked. “Is everything in politics political?”

Like Obama, Armstrong said his feeling on the issue has evolved over time.

“There was a time when I was against it, but this is what I think: Marriage is a blending or religious institution but is also sanctioned by the government,” Armstrong said.

“How someone practices their religion is their business, and to the extent there are some religions that do not sanction gay marriages, I respect that,” he said. “But I don’t think the government can make that distinction. You have to treat everyone the same.”

Armstrong noted that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law and also said that some religions do not believe in divorce except in certain circumstances.

“But in terms of the government, we ought to afford the same rights” to all, he said.

Jeff Adkins, chairman of the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Committee, also said he supports Obama.

“I have no problem with it. People should be able to marry who they want to marry. It’s inevitable; it’s going to happen,” Adkins said of the eventual approval of same-sex marriages.

“I think people are born gay or they are born straight, and God created all,” Adkins said. “From a Christian standpoint, I can’t imagine having a God who wouldn’t support people marrying who they love.”

Adkins said he also hopes the president’s vocal support will help those who are persecuted or bullied for being gay.

On the other side, “I don’t think it was a good political move for” the president, Adkins said, and he does not know what, if any, impact it will have on the election.

But one thing is certain, he said. “It took a lot of courage for him (Obama) to come out and say it.”


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