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Teresa Heinz Kerry says U.S. will one day accept gay marriage

BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
©2004 Associated Press

(02-24) 14:25 PST SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry, said Tuesday that she believed the country would eventually move toward acceptance of gay marriage.

"I think with time and without a lot of politicization of this, we'll get there," said Heinz Kerry, who is on a three-day campaign swing through California, which holds its primary next week. "I think our country is basically a tolerant country."

Heinz Kerry was campaigning for her husband Tuesday in San Francisco, which has become the epicenter of the gay marriage debate since the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

She told reporters she was "not surprised" by President Bush's support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. She said she expected the Bush campaign would use her husband's views on the issue against him in the presidential race if Kerry became the Democratic nominee.

"It's a campaign year, what can I say?" Heinz Kerry said. "They'll use everything, everything."

Her husband, John Kerry, opposes gay marriage but supports same-sex civil unions. In 1996, he was one of just 14 Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of gay marriages licensed in individual states.

Heinz Kerry said she sees the same sex marriage debate from the perspective of a mother because she has many friends struggling to come to terms with children who are gay.

"I think culturally we're going through a huge change," Heinz Kerry said. "I look at it in a human context because I have friends in those situations, and it's terrible. All we owe people is dignity, respect and civil rights. I think the country will evolve."

Heinz Kerry has three grown sons from her first marriage to the late Sen. John Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican.

Kerry issued a statement Tuesday condemning Bush's decision to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"I believe President Bush is wrong. All Americans should be concerned when a President who is in political trouble tries to tamper with the Constitution of the United States at the start of his re-election campaign," Kerry said. "He is looking for a wedge issue to divide the American people."

At a rally where she picked up an endorsement for her husband from local firefighters, Heinz Kerry praised the firefighters for their work on homeland security and sharply criticized the Bush administration for using legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security as a political tool against Democrats.

"What is the most damaging, I think, to all of us about many of the actions of this administration," Heinz Kerry said, "has been the cynicism with which they have perpetrated their positions and in which they have moved to trap us and, in a sense, terrorize us. Because it paralyzes us."

©2004 Associated Press