- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

This week’s vote backing a traditional-marriage amendment in Missouri has galvanized homosexual rights groups, which already were gearing up to work “as hard as we can” to put Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry in the White House.

The decision to ask Missouri voters to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman “was motivated by politics, pure and simple,” said Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights advocacy group.

“This was part of an effort by President Bush to distract Missourians from the fact that the state has lost almost 80,000 jobs over the past 3 years,” she said, adding that the state’s constitution “is now a tool for discrimination.”

However, Ms. Jacques was heartened by yesterday’s ruling from a Washington state superior court judge who said same-sex couples have a right to “marry” under the state constitution. The decision, which has been stayed until the state Supreme Court can consider the case, shows “there’s no reason to deny any family the same rights and responsibilities as others,” Ms. Jacques said.

The Human Rights Campaign plans to give more than $7 million this election cycle to candidates and political causes. In addition, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has committed $500,000 to fight marriage amendments in a dozen other states.

“We’re hoping to double that to $1 million,” Matt Foreman, NGLTF executive director, said yesterday.

Homosexual rights activists met yesterday to discuss campaign issues, including Missouri’s Tuesday primary election, where 71 percent of voters agreed to enshrine traditional marriage in the state constitution.

A record 42.8 percent of registered voters turned out for the primary, which featured the race between Gov. Bob Holden and state auditor Claire McCaskill for the Democratic nomination for governor. Mr. Holden lost to Mrs. McCaskill, 52 percent to 45 percent.

“We need to find out why so many more people than expected turned out to vote,” Seth Kilbourn, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, told www.365gay.com, an online news magazine. “Was it because of the amendment or because of the primary for governor?”

With a vote on a marriage-amendment initiative on Sept. 18 in Louisiana and 11 more likely in November, homosexual activists yesterday discussed which amendment battles to fund.

The campaign in Oregon, for example, is especially attractive because it has a Nov. 2 vote, is a presidential swing state and appears likely to reject a marriage amendment, homosexual activists said. Other states with marriage-amendment votes scheduled are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah. Michigan, Ohio and North Dakota will join the list if their petition signatures are validated.

All this comes after an encouraging Democratic National Convention, activists said.

Shannon Minter, spokesman for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, said he watched the convention closely and “was struck by what a clear choice we have now.”

One party has “the most gay-inclusive platform that we’ve ever seen,” while the other party “wants to literally write us out of the Constitution,” Mr. Minter said.

With financial help from the Human Rights Campaign, NGLTF and political action committees, “I very much anticipate that our community will be working as hard as we can to get Bush out of office,” Mr. Minter said.

President Bush “is such a threat and a danger to our families. I think our community and our allies will be out in full force.”

Author Wayne Besen, a former official with the Human Rights Campaign, said this week that “the love-in at the DNC can be explained in two words: Supreme Court.”

As horrible as Bush administration has been on homosexual issues — the president’s support for a federal marriage amendment is particularly offensive — “what we really couldn’t live with is another [Antonin] Scalia or Clarence Thomas,” Mr. Besen said, referring to the two Supreme Court justices. “That prospect is more terrifying than four more years of Bush.”

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