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Cox stumbles over gay marriage

Candidate for governor sends mixed messages

Here we go again. Republicans are dipping deep into their bag of 2004 campaign tricks.

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First, they're calling for gay marriage amendments to try to motivate their base and wedge some independent voters away from Democrats. And now they're using a Democratic candidate's predicament on the issue to tag her as a "flip-flopper."

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On the surface, it seems like just more political name-calling, an attempt to attach to gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox the same label that helped sink John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid. But maybe this time there's some truth to the label.

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In 2004, before Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved an anti-gay marriage amendment, Cox called it "unnecessary." But, last month, after a judge struck down the amendment, Cox endorsed Perdue's urgent call for a special legislative session in August to place a new anti-gay marriage amendment on the November ballot. (Never mind that gay marriage already is illegal in Georgia.)

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Then, after taking heat from gay activists, she said on Creative Loafing's "Air Loaf" radio show May 27 on WWAA-AM (1690) that she only supported the special session as "the lesser of two evils."

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"Where can we really get consensus between Democrats and Republicans in today's climate?" Cox asked a radio show caller. "I do think there are a lot of opportunities. For example, going after issues like protecting inheritance rights. Making sure that there are rights of visitation between partners in times of illness, especially terminal illnesses. Making sure that private businesses throughout the state have the opportunity to offer whatever kind of benefits to their employees that they want to."

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So does that mean Cox favors allowing civil unions between same-sex couples? Not so fast. When asked to clarify his candidate's stance on civil unions, Cox spokesman Peter Jackson said last week that she's opposed to both gay marriage and civil unions. He refused further comment.

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The Cox campaign's flat-out rejection of civil unions came as a surprise to Georgia Equality Executive Director Chuck Bowen. He thought Cox was still considering supporting a law that would grant gay couples partner status. "That's a profound step that I feel is very disappointing," Bowen says.

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Georgia Equality isn't planning to endorse a candidate in the governor's race. But then again, none of the three major candidates have sought the group's endorsement — an indication of how unpopular political consultants must think gays are among Georgia voters.

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Despite Cox's mixed messages, she may remain gay voters' most palatable candidate. Her Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, announced his support of the anti-gay marriage amendment and the special session early. Then, he shut up — while the media allowed his surrogates to pile on the criticism of Cox.

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The headaches the issue has created for Cox's campaign may have succeeded beyond the dreams of both Taylor and Republican strategists. While Cox has responded repeatedly to questions about the issue, Perdue and Taylor have stayed on message.

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In early polls, Cox ran ahead of Taylor among Democrats, and closer to Perdue than Taylor overall. An Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion poll last week showed Taylor finally pulling ahead of Cox among Democratic primary voters, with 34 percent to Cox's 27 percent.

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coley.ward@creativeloafing.com




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