RATHER: . . . Senator Kerry, what's wrong with gay marriage?
KERRY: I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a personal belief.
RATHER: Well, what's wrong with a man and a man committing to each other for life?
KERRY: What I think -- I think it's a distinction between what you believe the institution of marriage is, but what's important, Dan, is that you give people rights. I'm for rights, not for terminology or status -- rights.
RATHER: But who does it hurt, Senator?
KERRY: I think all -- that's not the issue. The issue is...
RATHER: Well, that's the question.
KERRY: ... are we prepared to provide rights to all Americans, so that they share the same rights as other people, not the same terminology or status?
I believe that the right, the spousal rights -- the right of inheritance, the right with respect to taxes, the right with respect to visitation in a hospital -- there are a whole series of rights. I am for those rights being afforded to every single American without distinction.
KUCINICH: May I respond?
RATHER: But who does it hurt, Congressman?
KUCINICH: First of all, I'm glad that Senator Kerry says he's for rights. I think it would be instructive to review the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, because I think that many Americans believe that equality of opportunity should not be denied on account of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.
And so what we're really talking about is having people be able to avail themselves of the same protections of civil law, that 1,047 different protections that people have when they're married, and to enable those privileges to be extended to everyone regardless of sexual orientation.
This is really about who we are, not just as a party, but as a nation. And we have to show capacity to expand. And I think any of us who are up here should be willing to take a stand on behalf of those people who are about to be excluded by the president of the United States from the protection...
KIRTZMAN: I'm kind of curious, Senator Kerry. If one of your children came to you and said, "First of all, I'm gay; second of all, I've met someone of the same gender that I want to marry," would you go to the wedding? Would you respect that relationship?
KERRY: I've been to the wedding of somebody who has gotten married who's gay, and I just happen to have a different opinion about what you call it and what the status is.
But I believe they deserve all the rights, all the support, all the love, all the affection, all of the rights that the state can afford. That's why...
KERRY: That's why I am for civil union. That's why I'm for partnership rights. That's why I'm for even the federal extension, with respect to tax code and other rights.
RATHER: Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: I think that's states' rights. I think you cannot have any civil or human rights left up to the states.
RATHER: So you're for a constitutional amendment?
SHARPTON: I am for the constitutional right for human beings to decide what they want to do with human beings. Which is why I think the likeable thing is one issue here, is not who runs against the president, it's what runs against the president.
RATHER: All right, let me again move on...
SHARPTON: And I think what must run against the president is the rights of American citizens to have fair and equal rights.
RATHER: Let me just say...
BUMILLER: Let me ask John...
EDWARDS: Can I just say, though, how extraordinarily political what this president is doing is. I mean, here -- first of all, there's no issue...
BUMILLER: No, no. Here's the question.
EDWARDS: Yes, ma'am.
BUMILLER: Do you see a difference between gay rights and civil rights? Why is one right a federal right, and the other one you're saying leave it to the states? What's the difference here?
EDWARDS: Here's what I say. I say that the federal government plays an important role in civil rights and in gay rights. I believe the federal government should recognize what the state, who has forever, now, decided what constitutes marriage...
BUMILLER: Why is there a different standard here?
EDWARDS: But wait a second, wait a second. We're talking about what the definition of marriage is, which is something that has always been decided by states, not rights. Now, see, this is one place that actually Senator Kerry and I largely agree. If we're talking about a bundle of rights, with what rights you'd get under federal law for partners, the problems with adoption...
SHARPTON: But they used to say that blacks were three-fifths of a human. What do you mean? Are gays and lesbians human or not?
EDWARDS: Of course they're human.
SHARPTON: Then why can't they have the same human rights?
BUMILLER: I hate to ask this question because I never get an answer, but what is the difference between a gay marriage and a gay civil union, when you have heterosexuals getting married at city hall, and there's no religion involved and it's called a civil ceremony? What is the difference?
SHARPTON: They say you can shack up, just don't get married. That's the difference.
RATHER: If I may, we need to move on.
BUMILLER: But the answer?
EDWARDS: The answer is, I believe that gay and lesbian couples should be respected. I think they're entitled to rights. And that's what I think the role...
BUMILLER: But you just can't call it marriage.
EDWARDS: I think it's for the states to decide that.