Like President Barack Obama, Matt Cartwright‚??s views on gay marriage evolved this year. And now the Democratic congressional candidate from Moosic says he supports the right of gay people to marry, though he does not believe religious leaders should be required to perform the ceremonies.
The Catholic father of three said he comes from a generation where sexual preferences and gender issues were not discussed, and until he became a political candidate, he never really thought hard about the question of gay marriage.
In a meeting at The Times Leader in July, Cartwright said he did not share the president‚??s recently announced support for gay marriage. At the time, Cartwright said his views were evolving, but, ‚??with respect to gay marriage, I‚??m not there yet. I‚??m very old school and old-fashioned,‚?Ě he said, noting he favored civil unions. ‚??I‚??m not saying I‚??ll never get there.‚?Ě
This week, Cartwright said he‚??s there.
‚??I‚??m for marriage equality,‚?Ě he said in a phone conversation on Thursday. ‚??There‚??s no reason to discriminate against gay people. They‚??re not a threat against anybody.‚?Ě
The issue gained traction in May when Vice President Joe Biden said he supported gay marriage. That put the spotlight on Obama, who had been noncommittal to the issue. A few days later he announced his support.
Cartwright said he was not pressured to make the decision but it‚??s something he spent a long time contemplating.
‚??It wasn‚??t any ‚??ah-ha‚?? moment,‚?Ě Cartwright said. ‚??One thing I didn‚??t want to be was rushed into (making a decision). It seemed like Vice President Biden rushed the president into it.
‚??I just kept thinking it over in my mind and I didn‚??t see a good reason to discriminate against a substantial population of American citizens,‚?Ě he said.
Cartwright, 51, said while older people are reluctant to accept gay marriage, many younger, more progressive people don‚??t see why it shouldn‚??t be legalized.
According to The Los Angeles Times, as recently as 2004, a Pew Research Center poll found that 60 percent of Americans were opposed to allowing same-sex couples to marry, with 36 percent strongly opposed. By last month, those opposed had shrunk to 43 percent, with 22 percent strongly opposed.
Cartwright said had he not run for Congress, he might not have reached a decision by now.
He said that as a candidate for Congress, he felt he needed to make a decision.
‚??This is a job where you have to take positions,‚?Ě he said.
The Democratic nominee in the 17th District will face Republican Laureen Cummings on Nov. 6.
Cummings, of Old Forge, said her faith teaches her that gay marriage is wrong and she is not going to question her church.
‚??As a Christian, I believe the Lord says gay marriage, just as divorce, is wrong,‚?Ě Cummings said. She said she does not support gay marriage nor does she support civil unions, though she said if Pennsylvania were to pass a law legalizing either she would support the law, just not the concept.
She said gay marriage has become one of those ‚??wedge issues that progressives are using to divide the country, and I don‚??t like that.‚?Ě
While he supports the premise of gay marriage, Cartwright made it clear he doesn‚??t support any law forcing religious institutions to perform a ceremony that it found in opposition to its teachings.
‚??Religious freedom is of vital importance to me, and I don‚??t think any church should be forced to perform a ceremony,‚?Ě Cartwright, an attorney, said.
Though multiple organizations have extended offers for a debate in the 17th Congressional District, only one has been accepted by both candidates. It‚??s set for Oct. 17 at the PBS39 Studio in Bethlehem. Other details will be forthcoming.