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Sen. Clinton dodges question on gays, immorality

Story Highlights

• Clinton now says she "does not share [Pace's] view, plain and simple"
• Clinton avoided question on whether she thinks homosexuality is immoral
• "I'm going to leave that to others to conclude," she said when asked by ABC News
• Clinton recently told gay-rights activists she was proud to stand by their side
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton sidestepped a question about whether she thinks homosexuality is immoral Wednesday, less than two weeks after telling gay-rights activists she was "proud" to stand by their side.

Clinton was asked the question by ABC News, in the wake of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace's controversial comment that he believed homosexual acts were immoral.

"Well, I'm going to leave that to others to conclude," she said.

Pace told the Chicago Tribune on Monday he supports the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay people from serving in the U.S. armed forces. (Full story)

"My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct that are immoral," Pace told the Tribune. "I believe that military members who sleep with other military members' wives are immoral in their conduct."

Pace also told the paper, "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts."

Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reins, said the New York senator "obviously" disagrees with Pace and that everyone, including the general, "has the right to be wrong, but should not inject their personal beliefs into public policy."

Then Wednesday night, the campaign released a statement from the senator herself, saying, "I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple."

"It is inappropriate to inject such personal views into this public policy matter, especially at a time in which there are young men and women in such grave circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world," Clinton said.

However, it's her initial refusal to answer the question that did not sit well with some gay and lesbian activists.

"I assume that Senator Clinton -- who has spoken out strongly against military discrimination, who stands for civil unions and respect for same-sex couples -- understands that gay Americans are not immoral, and she ought to say so clearly," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group that advocates same-sex marriage.

Other public figures have been more forceful in taking issue with Pace's comments, making Clinton's non-answer even more problematic.

Sen. John Warner, a conservative Republican from Virginia, said, "I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral."

John Edwards, one of Clinton's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, said, "I don't share that view," when asked about Pace's comments.

Less than two weeks ago, Clinton received a standing ovation when she addressed the leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, a major gay-rights group.

In her remarks, Clinton expressed strong support for a litany of gay-rights initiatives, including extending civil unions and domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples and allowing them to adopt children. She said she would work to pass a federal law outlawing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and propose another measure extending benefits to the partners of federal employees.

"We want to make sure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits, from health insurance and life insurance to Social Security and property rights and more," she said.

Clinton also said she thinks the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which keeps gay men and lesbians from serving in the military if they publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation, should be repealed. The policy was put in place in 1993 by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"It hurts all of our troops, and this, to me, is a matter of national security," she said.

The senator even said she "loved the fact" that she and Human Rights Campaign share the initials HRC.

Noting her work with the HRC to defeat a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Clinton said, "This is exactly the kind of partnership we will have when I am president."

"I am proud to stand by your side," she said. "Just as you always have an open door to my Senate office, you will always have an open door to the White House."

Given those remarks, Clinton's decision not to directly answer the question put by ABC News was seen by some analysts as a sign her campaign is so controlled and scripted that it's difficult for her to be spontaneous.

"Senator Clinton's style is one of caution," said Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report.

"She doesn't like to shoot from the hip. She's just not that kind of politician. I don't think she's comfortable doing that."

CNN's Carol Costello contributed to this report

Sen. Hillary Clinton has said she thinks the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy should be repealed.

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