- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

NEW YORK — Mayoral candidate Peter Vallone — a well-liked man and devoted Democrat whom poll numbers show trailing in a bid to succeed Rudolph W. Giuliani has distinguished himself from the rest of the Democratic political field by slamming the concept of same-sex "marriages."

"It's an outrage," the City Council speaker said of the idea, embraced by his three fellow Democratic candidates. "Besides, it's not a local issue."

Local issue or not, standing up to homosexual activism in this center of liberal political thinking fails one of the key litmus tests of candidacy. If a New York City office-seeker is pro-life, pro-guns or pro-traditional marriage, they are going to fight an uphill battle, political observers say.

Mr. Vallone, they say, may be just hoping to attract some Catholic voters in the upcoming Democratic primary. However, without the support of homosexuals, Mr. Vallone, a devout Catholic who attends Mass daily, will need a miracle. Even Mr. Giuliani, a practical Republican mayor given to moralizing, sponsored a series of human rights laws to cover the city's homosexuals.

Homosexual activists are pressing their case on a broad front across the United States. Here, as in most parts of the country, homosexual-rights efforts are a patchwork of regional and statewide legislation. In New York City, the Democrat-controlled City Council passed a measure that extended benefits to partners of city employees. Mr. Vallone supported that legislation despite his opposition to legalizing same-sex "marriages."

Mr. Vallone's Democratic opponents — front-runner Mark Green, the city's public advocate; Fernando Ferrer, Bronx borough president; and Alan Hevesi, city comptroller all support same-sex "marriages." Republican candidates Michael Bloomberg and Herman Badillo have not taken public stances on the issue.

Areas such as Albany, West-chester County and New York City have local protections comparable to the state's nondiscrimination laws, but a comprehensive measure Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) — which is the oldest piece of homosexual-rights legislation in the country, has been pending for 30 years. The bill would guarantee homosexual partnerships job protection and equal access to housing.

Sen. Thomas Duane, the first openly homosexual member of the Republican-controlled state Senate, views this bill, which has passed the Assembly for the last nine years, as the logical first step to recognition of same-sex "marriage."

"Part of having full equality is the right to be married," said the Democrat from Manhattan. Asked if he would take advantage of such a law, he replied that he and his partner did not live together, but if they did, "I might very well do so."

The legislation would give homosexual couples legal recognition and entitlement to health care benefits, tax advantages and better deals on health club memberships.

Political sources close to the Conservative Party and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican from Rensselaer in upstate New York, say the "marriage" proposal will never see legislative daylight.

"There is profound hatred of gay people within the state Senate and certain disproportionately influential groups," said Matt Foreman, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda.

The state legislature has passed a domestic-partners law to cover homosexual state employees.

The impetus for a national same-sex "marriage" campaign came from Vermont, the only state to legalize civil unions for homosexual couples. Since passage of that law a year ago, more than 75 percent of the same-sex civil-union licenses issued there have been to out-of-state couples.

Meanwhile, 35 states have passed defense-of-marriage bills that restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Nebraska and Nevada have summarily banned recognition of civil unions, and in Hawaii and Alaska, voters overwhelmingly adopted state constitutional amendments in support of heterosexual marriage. Efforts to guarantee "marriage" status to homosexuals also have faltered in Maine, where voters last year repealed a homosexual-rights law passed by the Legislature.

Despite increasing support for domestic partnerships or civil unions, many national polls indicate that a majority of Americans oppose same-sex "marriage." In a 1999 Zogby International poll, 53.5 percent said they were either morally or personally opposed to extending discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation, while 37.8 percent favored the idea.

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