First lady: Gay marriage issue 'shocking'
Laura Bush shares views as she begins 3-day trip to raise cash, talk about education.
February 19, 2004
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Laura Bush said gay marriage is "a very, very shocking issue" for some people, a subject that should be debated by Americans rather than settled by a Massachusetts court or the mayor of San Francisco.
Asked how she feels about the issue personally, Mrs. Bush replied: "Let's just leave it at that."
In an Associated Press interview, the first lady also endorsed sexual abstinence programs for teens, which are slated to get double their current funding under the president's latest budget proposal.
The first lady discussed her views as she flew across the country at the start of a three-day trip to raise re-election cash for her husband's campaign and to talk about education.
The trip took her to California, where gay couples have been lining up to get marriage licenses in San Francisco. On the East Coast, Massachusetts' highest court recently ruled that the state constitution permits gay marriages.
At the White House on Wednesday, President Bush said: "I'm troubled by what I've seen" in Boston and San Francisco. But he declined to say if he would support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, as conservative supporters expect him to do.
He declined to say whether he was more inclined now to back a constitutional ban. But he spoke privately with conservative Catholics about the issue, and activists who favor such a ban said the president soon would announce his support.
While declining to express her own opinions about gay marriages, Laura Bush said: "It's an issue that people want to talk about and not want the Massachusetts Supreme Court, or the mayor of San Francisco to make their choice for them. I know that's what the president thinks."
She defended her husband's credibility and took a shot at Democrats who allege he skipped out on his National Guard duty years ago.
"I think it's a political, you know, witch hunt, actually, on the part of Democrats," she said.
The president served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War and did report for duty in Alabama, where he was briefly assigned, she said.
The first lady said she and the president have been feeling a bit nostalgic as they watch the Democratic candidates campaigning.
"That's a much more up-close and personal campaign, because you get to actually be with so many of the voters," she said. "We both miss that."
And she said that despite the lack of privacy that comes with being first lady -- a title she finds "too artificial" -- she doesn't feel as if she must constantly bite her tongue to keep her opinions to herself.
"I'm actually very disciplined," she said. "I don't really have to watch everything I say because I'm pretty well-behaved."
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