Political party leaders spar over gay marriage issue

The following is an editorial from the August 8th Georgetown Times:

Political parties in Georgetown County are expressing a difference of opinion over developments in Massachusetts regarding approval of a law allowing out-of-state homosexual couples from to marry there.

The Georgetown County Republican Party chairman criticized county Democrats for a link to a Web page approving of same-sex marriage.

County GOP Chairman Tom Swatzel said in a news release that Democrats are dramatically out of step with voters in a county and state, in which 77 percent voted in favor of a 2006 state constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage as only between a man and woman.

"The local Democrats' stand comes at a dangerous time, when despite the passage of the state's Marriage Protection Amendment, traditional marriage in South Carolina remains at legal risk because of developments such as in Massachusetts and California," Swatzel said.

He noted that according to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts legislation will take effect 90 days after Gov. Deval Patrick signs the measure. One Massachusetts House member told the Globe that "repealing the law would create chaos outside Massachusetts ... other states will be forced to consider same-sex marriage or resolve disputes among couples who marry in Massachusetts but want benefits, or to divorce, back home."

Swatzel said, "When the Massachusetts repeal takes effect, some time after the November elections, gay and lesbian activists from Columbia will be able to fly to Boston, get 'married,' then fly home to file a lawsuit asking some federal judge to overturn South Carolina's marriage amendment and force us to recognize a same-sex Massachusetts marriage license," he said.

The Georgetown County Democratic Party's site links to the organization First Freedom First, which says on its Web site, "Religious-political interests are seeking a Federal Marriage Amendment -- or similar state constitutional amendments -- that would limit marriage only to 'the union of a man and a woman.'

"This would discriminate against the growing number of faith groups that perform same-sex marriages."

"Georgetown County Democrat officials' promotion of so-called gay and lesbian 'marriage' shows just how far out of touch they are with the values shared by the overwhelming majority of families in our county, Democrat and Republican alike," Swatzel said.

Georgetown County Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Sanderson says his party stands for the civil rights of all people.

"The Georgetown County Democratic Party finds it embarrassing for GOP Chairman Tom Swatzel to stoop even lower than ever before and now attack the GCDP for links on a Web site," Sanderson said in a written reply. "What else is left? Our paper we print materials on doesn't match your standards either, Tom?

"We do, however, appreciate the free advertising of our blog and want to emphasize that the GCDP encourages all its readers to educate themselves by reading and using the abundant information provided to them.

"We believe in giving the people of this great county all the tools they need to get and stay informed on county, state and nationwide issues.

"The beauty of our Democratic Party is that we stand for choice. Ultimately, we are not the ones who decide what is right or wrong, nor are we to be judgmental of a person's lifestyle.

"I want to know whether or not Swatzel's statements would sit well with the Log Cabin Republicans, a federated gay and lesbian political organization in the United States with state chapters and a national office in Washington, D.C.

"The Log Cabin Republicans have a chapter here in South Carolina. Does Swatzel speak for their members in this state?

"The Democratic Party is the party for all people and we stand for the civil rights of those people at all times.

"It's not surprising to see Swatzel resorting to these tactics. He has no answers on the issues. I do hope the readers of this newspaper begin seeing who the true bullies are in Georgetown County politics."