- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — The homosexual rights movement reaches a milestone today when its agenda is the subject of a televised Democratic presidential candidate forum. Yet many activists — craving bolder support for same-sex couples — view the unprecedented event with mixed emotions.

Though pleased that all the candidates of a major party are courting their votes and endorsing the bulk of their political wish list, they are frustrated that none of the front-runners is calling for legalization of same-sex “marriage.”

The forum, to be held in Los Angeles, is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights group that has become increasingly influential in Democratic politics, and by Logo, the homosexual-oriented cable channel that will provide a live telecast and Internet simulcast. Every Democratic candidate except Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd plans to participate.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese will serve as a panelist, along with singer Melissa Etheridge and Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart.

“I hope we can get genuinely heartfelt answers,” said Mr. Solmonese, who wants the leading candidates to explain why they remain wary of same-sex “marriage.”

Organizers say the forum marks the first time that major presidential candidates will appear on TV specifically to address homosexual issues.

“Simply seeing the candidates step on a stage to speak to a national gay television audience may be as moving as anything they say,” said Logo’s president, Brian Graden.

Logo, available in about 27 million homes, offered to hold a second forum for Republican candidates, but the Republican front-runners showed no interest, said Logo’s general manager, Lisa Sherman.

The Democrats will appear sequentially at 15-minute intervals during the two-hour forum, never sharing the stage with one another.

All of them support a federal ban on job discrimination against homosexuals, favor repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and support civil unions that would extend marriagelike rights to same-sex couples.

But thus far, only two long shots — Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel — have endorsed nationwide recognition of same-sex “marriage,” which a majority of Americans oppose.

“No viable mainstream contender for president is going to support gay marriage in this election cycle,” said Ethan Geto, an adviser to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I hope that’s going to change in the next couple of elections.”

Mr. Geto suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s hesitancy on same-sex “marriage” stemmed from her religious upbringing. Yet he also described her as a passionate supporter of other homosexual rights causes who is willing to raise those issues even before non-homosexual audiences.

One of Mrs. Clinton’s chief rivals, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, has acknowledged wrestling with his stance on same-sex “marriage.”

“I feel enormous conflict about it,” he said in a televised debate in July. “This is a very, very difficult issue for me.”

He noted that his wife, Elizabeth, broke ranks with him in June and publicly endorsed same-sex “marriage.”

The third Democratic front-runner, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, belongs to the United Church of Christ, which supports same-sex “marriage,” but Mr. Obama has yet to go that far.

Some conservative activists have denounced the upcoming forum.

“It’s disgraceful that our nation’s moral standards have now dipped so low that it’s considered ‘tolerant’ to hold a debate organized entirely around the promotion of sexual immorality,” said Matt Barber, cultural-issues policy director for Concerned Women for America.

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