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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Cheryl Jacques

Aired February 24, 2004 - 11:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm being told in my ear that we have on the phone Cheryl Jacques. Cheryl, tell me again who you're with please.
CHERYL JACQUES, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I'm the president of the human rights campaign.

KAGAN: All right, can you give us reaction please to what you heard the president announced just earlier today.

JACQUES: You know these are desperate acts of a desperate president who is going to try and drag this country through a cultural war to jump start a failing campaign. He is not acting as the uniter he promised to be. He is absolutely dividing here, and hoping to conquer.

At the same time, sadly, he is not focusing on what matters to Americans. He's not focusing on an economy where jobs are hemorrhaging, he is not focusing on the largest deficit in history of the presidents, he's not focusing on bringing our soldiers home safely or providing health care to the over 45 million uninsured Americans.

This is a huge distraction because he has no answers to the real problems that impact and affect Americans' lives.

KAGAN: All right, Cheryl, let me just throw a couple things at you here, what the president had to say. It is difficult to dispute the poll numbers out there. A lot of people support the idea of civil unions, but when you use the word "marriage" that seems to take a lot of people to a place they just don't want to go with same gender couples.

JACQUES: And the exact same polls tell us this is absolutely last on Americans list of priorities for this country and that the majority of Americans do not want to see the United States Constitution amended to tackle this issue. They want to allow states to decide for themselves.

So the president is going against all the polls because he think he can distract people from the real issues that Americans are worried about and try to get us past the November election and hope that none of us are paying attention.

KAGAN: If you heard President Bush talk, he did seem to leave open the window, saying he was against same-sex marriage but that if individual states wanted to allow civil unions that would be OK with him. I take it that's not enough for you? JACQUES: No, it's not about that. It's that the president is not being truthful. Leading constitutional law scholars have come out and said that what the president is supporting, amending the United States Constitution, would, indeed, strike at the heart of any state's ability to pass domestic partnerships, civil unions, whatever it is. So he's really speaking out of both side of mouth and trying to appeal to both sides.

The reality is the president wants to divide this country, bash gay and lesbian families, many of whom are raising children, like my own, in an effort to jump start his failing campaign.

KAGAN: And then finally this basically was the starting gun the president fired here. He is calling on Congress to get started right away on this constitutional amendment. The opposition is going to have to get organized as well. So what's the next step for the opposition?

JACQUES: This is all about education. This is about education for the American people that there are gay and lesbian couples, many in loving, long-term committed relationships. Over a million children are being raised in gay and lesbian households who wake up in the morning, worried about the same thing as everybody else.

You know, they worry about security for their family, they worry about good schools, safe communities. And yet they receive none of the protection that other families receive.

For example, I pay each and every week into the Social Security system. But if I die, my family will not get Social Security survivor benefits. You know, I have two little boys. They will not have financial protection.

And when Americans hear the facts, they understand it's just unfair. That's discrimination, it's not right and that is what the president is advocating for.

KAGAN: Cheryl Jacques, president, Human Rights Campaign. Thanks for joining us with a different take on what the president had to say earlier today.

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