Yago: Speaking of those values, one of the biggest issues that we have been discussing with our audience, and that the audience is debating amongst itself, is gay rights, so we have a question for you on gay marriage.

[Tape plays.] Senator Kerry, my names is Mark. My question is: Why won't you take a step up from [supporting] civil unions to [supporting] gay marriage? Because that's the only step that will make me not a second-class citizen but a first.

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Kerry: Well, Mark, I'm very sensitive to that argument and to that feeling, and I've got a lot of friends that I have talked to about this at great length, like Barney Frank for instance, who is an openly gay congressman from Massachusetts, and I think that there are strong feelings on many different sides about it. My feeling is that what is important is equal protection under the law. An equal protection clause, I think, pertains to the rights you give to people, not to the name you give to something, so I'm for civil unions. That gives people the rights: the rights of partnership, the rights of inheritance of property, the rights of taxation and so forth, those kinds of treatment that are equal. But I think there is a distinction between what we have traditionally called "marriage" between a man and a women and those rights. Now, it's just a belief that I have. I fight hard for employment-nondiscrimination legislation. I fight hard for hate-crimes legislation. I've stood up [for gay rights]. I was the original sponsor of the [Civil Rights Amendments Act] in the Senate in 1985. I believe very strongly that we can advance the cause of equality by moving toward civil unions. But that's where my position is at this point in time.

Yago: Do you think somebody is born gay, or do they choose to be gay?

Kerry: I think it's entirely who you are from birth, personally. Some people might choose, but I think that it's who you are. I think people need to be able to be who they are. I mean, you know, I have a friend who was married for many years and then the marriage dissolved and he came out and he announced that he was gay, and he lived this life of tension and of great difficulty. And I don't think that's a kind of choice. I think that's being who you are. It's in your system. It's in your genes. ... I think that people have a right in America to be who they are, who they are born as, and we are all God's children, and that is my view.

Yago: If that is the case, and people are born gay, why would there have to be a distinction? I mean, under the Constitution isn't everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, sex or sexual orientation, guaranteed equality?

Kerry: Yes, they should be guaranteed the rights, and that's what I have been said. Rights should be guaranteed. But what is distinct is the institutional name or whatever people look at as the sacrament within a church or within a synagogue or within a mosque as a religious institution, there is a distinction. The civil state really just adopted that. It's the rights that are important, not the name of the institution.

Yago: One last question for you. We had some questions that had nothing to do with politics at all. This is from Thais-Lyn.

[Tape plays.] Senator Kerry, I really want to know, have you ever Googled yourself?

Kerry: [He laughs.] Yes I have, actually, and I was surprised by the results. Pretty big.

Yago: I would imagine, you're a senator.

Kerry: I was really surprised. I can't remember what the number was, but it stunned me, to be honest with you.

Yago: Find anything interesting on there?

Kerry: Yeah, but I didn't spend much time. I just wanted to really see what was there. I unfortunately have read most of it over the years. [He laughs.] So I don't really need to go back.

Yago: I have one more question for you while we still have time. Since September 11 there has been this specter of another terror attack looming over all of our daily lives. Is there going to be a time when it's OK for all of us not to be afraid?

Kerry: That is a great question. That's our goal, that is what would restore life as we knew it in America, is to find a time when we won't be fearful. And I will do everything in my power to get us to that place. I have a different vision of how you get there from George Bush, and I think it is going to take quite a while to get there, because there are people in other countries who have been raised to hate. And they don't have a future, they don't have jobs, they don't have any kind of enfranchisement, voting rights, or the capacity to change things, so the Wahabbi fundamentalists, the madras schools, and the other institutions set up to sort of harness that energy and channel it into a very evil place is real. And it is going to be around until we have a foreign policy and other countries have a foreign policy that begins to really deal with the problems on this planet. One of those problems is abject poverty and lack of education and repression in countries. And I think our policy needs to help open the doors, if you will, over a period of time, so that people can channel that energy into their own lives, into their own country, and into achieving things within a framework that is civilized.

It's a long struggle, and terror has been around for a long time. It is going to be a great challenge for us. I have a very different view of how we do it from George Bush. George Bush just thinks you flex your military muscle; I don't. I think you have to build relationships. I think you have to invest, I think you have to work with other countries, I think you need a lot of public diplomacy. And we need as much energy committed to the war of ideas as we do to the war on the battlefield, and that is a real difference between us in this effort. But our goal is clearly to be free from that fear. Franklin Roosevelt talked about it. It's almost a natural right, if you will, of being American, and it's something we need to achieve again.


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