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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, January 08, 2004


Dean Says Faith Swayed Decision on Gay Unions

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, January 08, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Democratic front-runner Howard Dean said Wednesday that his decision as governor to sign the bill legalizing civil unions for gays in Vermont was influenced by his Christian views, as he waded deeper into the growing political, religious and cultural debate over homosexuality and the Bible's view of it.

"The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, substantial genetic component to it," Dean said in an interview Wednesday. "From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people."

Dean's comments come as gay marriage is emerging as a defining social issue of the 2004 elections, and one that is dividing the Episcopal Church in the United States and many other Christians and non-Christians. Driving the debate is a theological dispute over the Bible's view on homosexuality and a political one over the secular and spiritual wisdom of allowing gays to marry.

Dean said he does not often turn to his faith when making policy decisions but cited the civil union bill as a time he did. "My view of Christianity . . . is that the hallmark of being a Christian is to reach out to people who have been left behind," he told reporters Tuesday. "So I think there was a religious aspect to my decision to support civil unions."

Earlier Tuesday, when he and the other candidates were asked at a debate whether religion has influenced any of their policy decisions, Dean was the only one not to respond.

In the interview Wednesday, Dean said, "I don't go through an inventory like that when making public policy decisions."

Dean has been expanding on his religious views in a series of conversations with reporters, but his remarks Tuesday and Wednesday were the first time he has talked about how faith has influenced his policymaking.

Dean said he does not consider homosexuality a sin but nonetheless opposes gay marriage.

There's an overt effort here to find a Gotcha! moment on Dean, but it's clear from Dean's statement that he did not evaluate the civil unions bill using a religious litmus test - he is simply stating that religion influences the position of his moral center from which he then applies his reason. Religion is a powerful force and can lead to different views of what is right or wrong - and it's good to admit that religion is an input to that function. Better, Dean makes a religious case for tolerance towards homosexuality, which is quite a neat bit of Dean fu.

UPDATE: AP writer Ross Sneyd (who has a long history of covering Dean in Vermont as Gov) discovers that Dean didn't mention religion when he signed the civil unions bill.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.