Walter Cronkite: Defender of Gay Marriage
In all of the tributes for Walter Cronkite, who died on July 17, 2009, one aspect of his personality has been omitted: He was an advocate for the separation of church and state. And in this capacity, he came out squarely against the Defense of Marriage Act and tacitly for the right of gay Americans to marry.
In a newspaper column he wrote for King Features Syndicate in 2003, when he was 86, Cronkite wrote, "Conservatives, particularly those of the Christian right, are determined that gay marriage and all abortions must be banned by federal law, even perhaps by amendments to our Constitution."
Massachusetts had just become the first state to legalize gay marriage. "Conservatives," he wrote, "particularly those of the Christian right, are determined that gay marriage and all abortions must be banned by federal law, even perhaps by amendments to our Constitution."
"It certainly is the right of the anti-abortionists and those who oppose gay marriages to defend, express and even propagandize their beliefs," he concluded. "But is it their right to impose their definition of morality on those who hold opposing views? The answer is a resounding "no" from the large chorus of those who believe that our individual rights are precious and should not be trampled upon by even those of deep religious convictions, including those in their own churches."
Cronkite, who had been called the most trusted man in America, has come for posthumous criticism from some on the right for his expressing skepticism after the Tet Offensive that the United States could win the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, "If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the middle America."
Right-wing RealNews blog cites Dan Rather’s comment that Cronkite "wanted to redefine liberal as it’s used in today’s political context. He meant that he was liberal in the sense that he was in favor of preserving those things worth preserving but changing those things that needed changing."