WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. Sonny Bono says he loves his lesbian daughter, Chastity Bono, and respects gay people, but he just can't accept the idea of gay marriage right now.
Bono, R-Calif., supports a controversial bill that would define marriage in federal law as the legal union of one man and one woman. Opponents have denounced the bill as discriminatory.
"I'm not homophobic. I'm not a bigot. I'm not pandering to hatred," Bono, R-Calif., told fellow members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. "I simply can't handle it. It's nothing else, but at least I want to honestly say that to you and throw aside all the legal rhetoric."
His comments came at the end of a long committee hearing on the bill, which was introduced last month by Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga. The committee is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to send the bill to the House for a vote.
The committee's majority Republicans support the bill, but Democrats have accused proponents of using the issue politically, to improve Bob Dole's chances of defeating President Clinton in November.
Bono said he sees the gay point of view and respects fellow committee member Rep. Barney Frank, a gay Democrat from Massachusetts, but he still opposes gay marriage.
"I think it breaks down to whether you're able to handle something or whether you're not able to handle something. I don't like my daughter any less because she's gay," he said. "I wish I was ready, but I can't tell my son it's OK."
Frank said he appreciated the "candor and the decency" that motivated Bono's comments. But he continued to maintain the bill was fundamentally unfair to +gays+.
Bono decided to co-sponsor the bill despite an article published in the January issue of The Advocate in which he told daughter Chastity, a magazine writer, that the idea of gay marriage "seems fine if that's what they want to do. Yeah, I'll support that, unless there are any costs involved, but there don't appear to be any."
Bono spokesman Frank Cullen said the magazine took Bono's comments out of context, making it sound like unqualified support. It wasn't, he said.
Cullen also said Bono is more concerned about a court case that could make Hawaii the first state to recognize gay marriages. If that happens, other state could be required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Hawaii.
If the bill becomes law, it will allow states to reject the legality of those marriages. Bono doesn't want to see a single panel of judges in Hawaii decide whether the whole country should accept gay marriages, Cullen said.