Everyone's favorite re-election campaign tries to have it's divisive, discriminatory social agenda and eat it too: In a political season marked by Republican efforts to outlaw gay marriage, Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday offered a defense of the rights of gay Americans, declaring that "freedom means freedom for everyone" to enter "into any kind of relationship they want to." Mr. Cheney said the issue was what kind of government recognition to give those relationships, and indicated that he preferred to let the states define what constitutes a marriage. In contrast, President Bushhas argued that a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is essential. Mr. Cheney noted that Mr. Bush sets policy for the administration. In unusually personal remarks on the issue, delivered at a campaign forum in Davenport, Iowa, the vice president referred to his daughter, Mary, who is a lesbian, saying that he and his wife "have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with." He added, according to a transcript of his remarks, provided by the White House, "We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them." He spoke on the same day that a draft version of the Republican platform was distributed to convention delegates that declared, "We strongly support President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage." The draft platform added, "Attempts to redefine marriage in a single city or state could have serious consequences throughout the country, and anything less than a constitutional amendment, passed by Congress and ratified by the states, is vulnerable to being overturned by activist judges." Gay rights advocates immediately accused the Bush administration of trying to have it both ways, reaching out to moderate voters one week before the party's convention in New York, after months of advocating a constitutional amendment that was a key goal of social conservatives. "President Bush must be feeling the heat," Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said in a statement. "Millions of Republican families, like the Cheneys, have gay friends and family members and are offended by President Bush's efforts to put discrimination in the Constitution," Ms. Jacques said. A leading group of social conservatives, the Family Research Council, indicated it was disappointed at the "mixed messages" from the administgation. Anne Womack, Mr. Cheney's campaign press secretary, said Mr. Cheney's position had not changed.


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