During an interview on Sunday, Senator John McCain (Az-Rep) said that homosexuality was not a "defect" or a "sin," but emphasized that he didn't think same sex marriage should be legal.
The possible 2008 GOP presidential contender drew the line at civil unions for gay and lesbians, but said that he thought they should have the right to enter into legal agreements.
"I do not believe gay marriage should be legal," McCain repeated. "I do not believe gay marriage should be legal."
"But I do believe that people ought to be able to enter into contracts, exchange powers of attorney, other ways that people [who] have relationships can enter into," McCain continued.
McCain also said that while he didn't "believe we should discriminate against anyone in the workplace," he didn't "think we need specific laws that would apply necessarily to people who are gay."
McCain has been criticized by many for "flip-flopping" on issues related to gay rights and abortion.
"In 1999, the 'moderate' version of John McCain said that overturning Roe v. Wade would be dangerous for women and he would not support it, even in 'the long term,'" the liberal blog Think Progress noted. "This morning on ABC, McCain — now aggressively courting the likes of Jerry Falwell — expressed his unequivocal support for overturning Roe v. Wade."
Excerpts from McCain's interview on ABC's This Week:
Excerpts from transcript of interview:
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning everyone. Proving that it's never too early for presidential politics, both Rudi Giuliani and John McCain set up exploratory campaign candidates this week. And we're joined this morning here in the studio by Senator McCain. Welcome back.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks George.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're in South Carolina or Michigan talking to a county chairman, when he asks why should I support you over Rudi Giuliani? What do you say?
SEN. MCCAIN: My record. My record of being a conservative Republican of knowledge on national security and defense issues, my advocacy for less government is best government. And I think people should be judged on their record, but also their vision for the future of the country.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Giuliani describes himself as both pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Do you think someone with those positions can get the Republican nomination and effectively lead the Republican Party?
SEN. MCCAIN: I don't know. I know that he's an American hero. I know that Americans will never forget the magnificent job he did following 9/11, and I think that he would be favorably looked on by a lot of Americans.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you're not pro-choice. You're pro- life. Are you pro-gay rights?
SEN. MCCAIN: In the respect that I believe that the don't ask, don't tell policy is working in the military. I don't know how you view that. I do not believe that marriage between -- I believe in the sanctity and unique role of a marriage between man and woman. But I certainly don't believe in discriminating against any American.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But on that don't ask, don't tell policy, the military now classifies homosexuals. They classify homosexuality as a defect. Do you agree with that?
SEN. MCCAIN: No, I don't think they do that.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It actually is. Yes, they do right now.
SEN. MCCAIN: I don't think it's a "defect", but I do believe the don't ask, don't tell policy has been very effective. We've got the best military we've ever had in our all-volunteer force. So I think the policy is working.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you believe that marriage should be reserved between a man and a woman.
SEN. MCCAIN: Yes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You voted for an initiative in Arizona that went beyond that and actually denied any government benefits to civil unions or domestic partnerships. Are you against civil unions for gay couples?
SEN. MCCAIN: No, I'm not. I -- but the -- that initiative I think was misinterpreted. I think that initiative did allow for people to join in legal agreements such as power of attorney and others. I think there was a -- I think that there was a difference of opinion on the interpretation of that constitutional amendment in Arizona.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're for civil unions?
SEN. MCCAIN: No, I am for ability of two people -- I do not believe gay marriage should be legal. I do not believe gay marriage should be legal.
But I do believe that people ought to be able to enter into contracts, exchange powers of attorney, other ways that people have relationships can enter into.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You threw your support behind Trent Lott this week to be Republican Whip. Do -- he has said that homosexuality is a sin. Is that what you think?
SEN. MCCAIN: I have never heard Trent Lott state that. But no, that's not what I --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not your position?
SEN. MCCAIN: No.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question on abortion. You're for --
SEN. MCCAIN: I just want to point out again; I believe that gay marriage should not be legal. Okay? But I don't believe that we should discriminate against any American because that's not the nature of America. Okay?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that extend then -- you should have -- do you believe then that there should be a law that bans discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace?
SEN. MCCAIN: No, I don't believe we should discriminate against anyone in the workplace, but I don't think we need specific laws that would apply necessarily to people who are gay.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask one question about abortion; then I want to turn to Iraq. You're for a constitutional amendment banning abortion with some exceptions for life and rape and incest.
SEN. MCCAIN: Rape, incest, and the life of the mother, yes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So was President Bush. Yet that hasn't advanced in the six years he's been in office. What are you going to do to advance a constitutional amendment that President Bush hasn't done?
SEN. MCCAIN: I don't think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place. But I do believe that it's very likely or possible that a Supreme Court should -- could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support that.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And you'd be for that?
SEN. MCCAIN: Yes, because I'm a federalist, just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states. So do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade returned to the states. And I don't believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.