US president George Bush has announced he does not oppose civil unions for same-sex couples -“ despite the Republican Party’s platform being explicitly against the idea.

When asked about his party’s opposition to civil unions in an interview with Good Morning America on Tuesday, Bush said he disagreed with the policy and believed it was an issue that should be left to the states.

However, he reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay couples from getting married.

I don’t think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do, Bush said.

I view the definition of marriage as different from legal arrangements that enable people to have rights. I strongly believe that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman.

Bush also said he would not be opposed to granting some of the federal rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.

When asked about his indecisive answer during the final presidential debate on the question of the origins of sexuality, Bush said he’s open to the possibility that nature could be the defining component when it comes to a person’s sexuality.

His new position on civil unions is the same as his presidential rival’s, John Kerry. Kerry has consistently said he supports civil unions and opposes same-sex marriage, but he does not support a constitutional amendment.

Bush’s apparent softening on the issue just four days before the presidential election has drawn criticism from gay rights groups.

President Bush’s election eve conversion to support civil unions cannot be reconciled with his efforts to change the constitution to ban civil unions, said Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign. After four years of promoting discrimination, President Bush’s attempt to reinvent himself a week before election day will not persuade voters.

Dave Noble of the National Stonewall Democrats said, Suave words cannot smooth a wrinkled record. President Bush has used the weight of his presidency to advocate for the discrimination of same-sex couples. He can try to mislead the American public once again, but this whole act is becoming a little desperate.

The Republican Party adopted the anti-civil unions platform during the recent Republican National Convention in New York, when Bush officially received the party’s nomination for the 2 November election.

One version of the constitutional amendment proposed this year included wording that legal experts said would have kept states from establishing civil unions, The Advocate reported. Bush has never wavered from his support of the amendment and he never spoke out against the wording that would have outlawed civil unions.

Bush’s comments this week would have come as a shock to the millions of Christian voters who support banning same-sex couples from marrying and forming civil unions.

Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, was furious at Bush for his remarks. Civil unions are a government endorsement of homosexuality, said Knight. But I don’t think President Bush has thought about it in that way. He seems to be striving for neutrality while defending marriage itself.

The head of the Campaign for California Families, Randy Thomasson, was also upset. Civil unions are homosexual marriage by another name, reported Thomasson as saying.

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