By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a prospective 2008 presidential candidate, said yesterday that he thinks bans on same-sex marriages have no place in the nation's laws.
Feingold said in an interview that he was motivated to state his position on one of the most divisive social issues in the country after being asked at a town hall meeting Sunday about a pending amendment to the Wisconsin state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
Feingold called the amendment "a mean-spirited attempt" to single out gay men and lesbians for discrimination and said he would vote against it. But he went further, announcing that he favors legalizing same-sex marriages.
That puts him at odds with many prominent Democratic politicians who support gay rights but not same-sex marriage. Should Feingold decide to run for the party's presidential nomination in 2008, his position would put him to the left of many likely rivals.
"Obviously, it's a very difficult issue and evokes a lot of emotions," Feingold said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I think it's something ultimately that people throughout the country will accept, but it's not an easy issue." He accused the Bush White House and the Republican Party of using same-sex marriage as a wedge issue "to hurt Democrats who are against discrimination."
The Wisconsin senator said he is prepared to work with supporters of same-sex marriage to ensure that it is legal in the future.
"Further steps would be appropriate," he said, noting that his first priorities are to defeat the proposed Wisconsin amendment as well as a federal constitutional amendment that is expected to come to a vote in the Senate later this spring.