John Kerry Tells MTV News: Sexual Orientation Matter Of Genetics, Not Choice

Presidential contender supports equal rights for same-sex couples, stops short of condoning gay marriage.

(Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry discusses the issues of gay marriage, censorship, foreign policy, his plans for education and employment and even whether or not he considers himself "cool" in our exclusive interview. Tune in to the MTV News special "Choose or Lose: 20 Million Questions for John Kerry" tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can also find the complete John Kerry interview right here at MTVNews.com after the show.)

Senator and presidential contender John Kerry weighed in on the ongoing gay-marriage debate in a recent interview with MTV News Kerry explained his belief that sexual orientation is a matter of genetics, not choice, and that both gay and straight people should be accorded equal rights under the law.

"I think it's entirely who you are from birth, personally," Kerry told MTV News recently. "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 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."

Kerry addressed the issue after an MTV viewer pressed him on his stand on gay marriage. The senator has said that he supports same-sex civil unions provided that those unions provide same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples. Kerry, however, has stopped short of calling for acknowledgement of gay marriages. The man that Kerry hopes to unseat, President George W. Bush, has called for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages (see "President Bush Calls For Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage").

While most polls indicate that the majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriages, MTV research indicates that voters aged 18 to 24 actually support giving gay couples the right to marry. (You can see the range of opinions on this issue in a special edition of our You Tell Us area.)

"My feeling is that what is important is equal protection under the law," Kerry said. "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. But I think there is a distinction between what we have traditionally called 'marriage' between a man and a woman and those rights ... 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.

"What is distinct is the institutional name," Kerry explained. "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."

Kerry expanded on this topic and also addressed censorship, foreign policy, his plans for education and employment and even whether or not he considers himself "cool" in our interview. You can find much more from that conversation in the MTV News special "Choose or Lose: 20 Million Questions for John Kerry," airing Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can also find the complete John Kerry interview right here at MTVNews.com on Tuesday evening.

For more political news, insight into the 2004 presidential election and information on registering to vote, check out Choose or Lose.