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Cheney describes same-sex marriage as state issue

But says President Bush 'makes basic policy'


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DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday he believes the question of same-sex marriage is best handled by the states -- a position that puts him at odds with President Bush who proposed amending the Constitution to ban such unions.

"At this point, my own preference is as I've stated," Cheney said. "But the president makes basic policy for this administration, and he's made it clear that he does in fact support a constitutional amendment on this issue."

Cheney, the father of two adult daughters -- one of whom is a lesbian -- was asked for his views on "homosexual marriage" during a campaign rally here. (Special Report: America Votes 2004)

"Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with," Cheney said as he began to explain his view.

"With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everybody," said Cheney, who took the same stand during the 2000 presidential race.

"People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."

Cheney then spoke specifically about marriage.

"Historically, that's been a relationship that's been handled by the states," Cheney said. "States have made the basic fundamental decision [as to] what constitutes a marriage.

"I made clear four years ago when this question came up in my debate with [Sen.] Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide and that's how it ought best be handled."

Cheney described Bush's support for a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples as a response to a court decision in Massachusetts that opened the door to same-sex marriages.

But Cheney did not endorse Bush's point of view, even as he detailed it.

"His perception was that the courts in effect were beginning to change without the people being involved, without their being part of the political process," Cheney said.

But he said the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act "has not been successfully challenged in the court, and it may be sufficient to resolve the issue."

Cheney was referring to a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton that defined marriage -- for the purpose of federal law -- as the union of a man and a woman.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would have effectively banned same-sex marriage failed on a procedural vote in the Senate in July on a 48-50 vote -- well short of the two-thirds majority needed for amendments to be sent to the states for ratification.

Cheney's daughters are active in his campaign. He spoke fondly of both.

"We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them," he said. "They're both fine young women, and they do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us, and we were blessed with both our daughters."


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