Senator John McCain said he opposes allowing gay couples to adopt children, but his campaign clarified Tuesday that the Republican presidential candidate believes the issue should be left to states to decide following criticisms from gay rights groups.
The putative Republican presidential nominee had said in an interview published Sunday in the New York Times that he thinks it has been "proven that both parents are important in the success of a family."
"[S]o, no, I don't believe in gay adoption," he stated.
McCain, who has an adopted a daughter with his wife, Cindy, said he wanted to encourage adoption, but that the adoptive parents should be a man and woman, or a traditional couple.
But after his statement drew criticisms from gay rights groups, his campaign issued a clarification statement.
"John McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on gay adoption is that it is a state issue, just as he made it clear in the interview that marriage is a state issue," Tucker Bounds, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. "He was not endorsing any federal legislation."
McCain is opposed to same-sex "marriage" and endorsed a ballot initiative to overturn California's state ruling that legalized the practice, but believes each state should decide how to define marriage, rather than the federal government.
Bounds said McCain was only expressing his "personal preference" that children be raised by a mother and father, but recognized there are cases of abandoned children who have no caretaker.
"John McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative," Bounds said, without elaborating if McCain believes a gay couple adopting a child is better than the child remaining in the orphanage.
The Republican candidate has been carefully treading between constituencies in an effort to avoid offending his diverse body of support. Although touting his conservative stance on abortion and gay "marriage" to values voters, McCain often seems hesitant to declare his position on these issues when in a more moderate crowd for fear of offending potential voters.
McCain will need the support of Republican voters as well as independents to beat Democrat rival Barack Obama.