Bloggers, pundits and just ordinary folks are still scratching their heads trying to make some sense out of remarks Gordon Smith made last week during a panel discussion in Washington on partnership rights.
In the discussion, which you can see on video here, a questioner identifying himself as an Oregonian asked Smith whether he supports "the recent domestic partnership bill that has passed" in this state and "how do you reconcile your position on partnership benefits with your support of the [anti-gay marriage] federal marriage amendment and the federal Marriage Protection Act?"
Smith's response is such a classic that it deserves to be presented in its entirety; The Eye would no more think of abridging it than we would presume to boil Moby-Dick down to a paragraph:
"Yeah, I'm fine with what the legislature did. I think that it is a good accommodation of very legitimate demands by gays and lesbians. Um, I don't want to bring this up but I guess I'll have to. Um, I voted for the marriage amendment because I didn't want federal judges to impose it on other states who are voting differently. If states want to democratically go about it, that's what they should do, but I did not want a federal judge imposing it on other parts of the jurisdiction."
Then, after a long pause, Smith veered over the cliff into real weirdness:
"My campaign people will kill me for saying this, but (another pause) I am a devout Mormon. I have been married to Sharon for 33 years. She's the only woman I have ever been married to - I want to make that very clear. (Laughter.) Part of what I fear is you start defining marriage - we have a long history of doing that in this country, and my Mormon pioneer ancestors were the victims of that. They were literally driven from the United States in the dead of winter, following their religious beliefs. I don't want that coming back.
"When you - not that my church would, but there are some on the front pages of your newspaper that are trying to now. When you start tinkering with the definition of one man, one woman, with the definition of marriage - it's really defined by religion, but accommodated by the state. The implications are much broader than just the gay and lesbian community. So what I'm telling you from the bottom of my heart is I'm trying to do all I can without creating a much bigger problem. And I hope you understand."
No, Senator, we do not understand. We don't even come close. Were you giving a sort of half-assed endorsement to polygamy on the grounds of religious freedom? Were you equating gay marriage with polygamy?
Today Smith issued a "clarification" that didn't really clarify much. "My remarks referenced a point in time when a few of my ancestors were persecuted for not adhering to [the] belief" that marriage is between one man and one woman, he told The Oregonian. "It was an unfortunate reference, and I apologize for making it. ... If you'd grown up a Mormon, and spent your life trying to get out from the shadow of that legacy - it's an emotional scar that you carry. I meant no offense by sharing that part of my history."
Frankly, The Eye doesn't see why everybody is making a big deal out of Smith's remarks. He was just trying to do what politicians have been doing since the Old Stone Age - answer a question about a touchy topic without actually saying anything.