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Barkley sounds off on gay rights, religion and Katrina

8/30/2006 - NBA

NEW YORK -- Charles Barkley was his usual outspoken self
during a recent television interview in which he said, among other
things, that he advocates gay marriage, believes Republicans have
screwed up the country and is "struggling with my idea of what
religion is."

The former NBA MVP, who is considering running as a Democratic
candidate for governor in his home state of Alabama, also said
Democrats have concentrated too much on criticizing President Bush
in the last two years instead of focusing on what they can do to
improve things in the country.

"They're criticizing a guy who can't run again, who can't get
fired," Barkley said during an appearance on "CMI: The Chris
Meyers Interview," which will air on Sunday night on Fox
SportsNet. "So they spent the last two years criticizing him
instead of saying, 'Some things aren't right. This is our game
plan.' And now we're two years away from the election, and we have
no solutions and no front-runner."

Barkley was a Republican until recently, saying he switched
parties when the Republicans "lost their minds." He said he is
troubled by some of the actions of people in the United States in
the name of religion.

"Religious people in general are so discriminatory against
other people, and that really disturbs me," he said. "My idea of
religion is we all love and respect. We all sin, but we still have
common decency and respect for other people. So right now I'm
struggling with my idea of what religion is."

He also said he supports gay marriage.

"I think if they want to get married, God bless them," Barkley
said. "Gay marriage is probably 1 percent of the population, so
it's not like it's going to be an epidemic. Hey, trust me, I'm
never going to kiss you and say, 'Chris, you're sexy."'

Barkley also acknowledged that a gay athlete likely would be
discriminated against in professional sports, though he said he
believes they would face the same discrimination in everyday life.

The Hall of Famer, who donated money to help with the
reconstruction in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, said
he realizes he has limitations when it comes to governing, though
that isn't stopping him from considering a gubernatorial bid.

"I don't know anything about a lot of things, but I would ask
somebody and try to make a fair, honest decision for the majority
of the people. Not the rich, not the poor, not the black, not the
white," Barkley said. "When you get elected to public office,
you're supposed to represent everybody. Your job is not to take
care of the rich or the poor or the black or the white. Your job is
to take care of everybody."