Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Supporters of gay marriage relieved after Senate vote

AP , SAN FRANCISCO

Supporters of gay marriage expressed relief at the US Senate's rejection of a gay marriage ban and warned conservatives that the issue won't influence November elections.

Senators rejected the proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday by a wide margin.

"It is clear that most Americans saw this for what it was: base political pandering, skewed priorities and abdicated responsibilities," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In Massachusetts, where gay marriage was legalized in 2004, gays and lesbians were grateful the measure failed but were concerned it might fuel further homophobia -- especially since the amendment's backers announced plans to resurrect it in the House of Representatives next month.

"There seems to be malice and opportunism in the politics of this debate," said J.M. Sorrell, a lesbian from Springfield, Massachusetts, who has performed about 150 same-sex marriages as a justice of the peace. "There's a lack of treating an entire group of people with love, dignity and equality."

Massachusetts' gay nuptials and San Francisco's short-lived same-sex wedding spree in 2004 were credited with creating a conservative backlash that fueled Bush's re-election. Yet gay marriage activists pointed to Tuesday's primaries as evidence that sexual orientation is irrelevant in politics.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a political action committee funding lesbian and gay candidates, reported that nine of its 51 endorsed candidates either won primaries on Tuesday or earned enough votes for a runoff.

Winners included a lesbian running for a seat in the Alabama Legislature who made it to a two-person runoff, an Iowa lawmaker who won re-election after coming out as gay during his first term, and a lesbian who could become the first openly gay lawmaker in the Arkansas Legislature.

The amendment's supporters, meanwhile, angrily denounced the Senate for refusing to put the matter up for an up-or-down vote. Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women of America's Culture and Family Institute, said he was insulted by comments from some senators that gay marriage was not a pressing national issue.

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