- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2000

NEW YORK Homosexual rights activists are chagrined at Hillary Rodham Clinton's opposition to same-sex "marriages," but are quick to point out that she and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, her likely opponent in the New York Senate race, share the same view.

"It seems that both of them are trying to stake out a position in favor of quote-unquote separate but equal positions," said Evan Wolfson of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Our country's been down this road before and separate but equal is not equal."

Mr. Wolfson, director of the "marriage project" at Lambda, a group that does not endorse candidates, was responding to a statement by Mrs. Clinton in which she supported domestic-partner benefits to homosexual couples. She added that she would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 because marriage "has always been between a man and a woman."

The legislation, signed into law by her husband, denies federal recognition of same-sex "marriage" and allows states to ignore those licensed elsewhere. Early in December, Mrs. Clinton told those attending a fund-raiser in downtown Manhattan that "same-sex unions should be entitled to all the rights and privileges that every American gets."

Mrs. Clinton announced Monday that she would formally declare her senatorial candidacy in early February, adding that she hopes to have the president and daughter Chelsea by her side if their schedules permit. The Republican mayor has not made any formal announcement on his candidacy.

Christopher R. Lynn, a Democratic homosexual rights activist who supports same-sex "marriage" and is a commissioner in the Giuliani administration, said Mrs. Clinton mirrors Mr. Giuliani's position on everything regarding same-sex unions.

Referring to the domestic partnership legislation which was supported by the mayor and became law in 1998, Mr. Lynn said, "The difference between the two is that the mayor has done something about gay rights. So if you're a lesbian or gay in New York, who're you going to vote for?"

As is often the case in Mrs. Clinton's "exploratory" campaign, political observers usually sympathetic to the first lady attributed her latest stand to bad advice from Democratic counselors.

One critic is Matt Foreman, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a group that endorsed Mr. Clinton in 1992 and 1996. He said he found Mrs. Clinton's remarks "extremely disappointing" and "unnecessary" because, he said, the Clintons have many homosexual friends in long-term relationships and should know such a statement hurts.

"We have to look at what people say and do," he said, "and Giuliani does have a decent record on lesbian and gay issues."

Martin Algaze, a spokesman for the Gay Men's Health Crisis, was also disturbed at Mrs. Clinton's position. "It's a shame she said this. She's obviously trying to be middle of the road. It's similar to Bill Clinton and gays in the military. He caved."

In a poll released yesterday by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, Mrs. Clinton's favorability rating fell below 50 percent for the first time since the senatorial race surveys began. Sixty-one percent had a favorable impression of the mayor to 48 percent for Mrs. Clinton.

Asked whom they would support in the race, 49 percent of the 621 registered voters questioned supported the mayor, while Mrs. 40 percent chose Mrs. Clinton. Eleven percent were undecided in the poll, which has a plus or minus 4 percent margin of error. The latest survey results are identical to those of the institute's December poll.

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