Thursday, July 29, 2004

BOSTON — A parade of Democratic leaders and Hollywood stars, including Ben Affleck, yesterday reassured homosexual delegates and advocates that they have a lot to gain by defeating the Bush administration and electing a Kerry administration.

“If nothing else, you will have a mom in the White House,” Teresa Heinz Kerry said before the packed hotel room of homosexual delegates and advocates.

“You’re pushing the envelope, and we, as a country, have to respond with policies and cultural acceptance,” said Mrs. Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

Dignity and respect are paramount qualities, she said. If any of the Kerry children were to say they were homosexual and wanted to marry their partner, she said, “I would … share my joy and my pride with all my friends,” just as if they were marrying someone of the opposite sex.

One of her better-known qualities, Mrs. Kerry added, is “that I like to nurture” people, and family members and friends sometimes call her “Dr. T” or “Momma T.” As she departed, the crowd chanted, “Momma T, Momma T!”

Boston-born Mr. Affleck joked about his famous marriage woes, but quickly attacked political efforts to block same-sex “marriage.”

“As somebody, to be perfectly frank, who has enough trouble figuring out who to get married [to], I don’t need the state or federal government telling me who I can or can’t marry,” said the star of “Good Will Hunting” and “Armageddon.”

Hollywood actor and director Rob Reiner said the Bush administration’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was just one more “irrefutable” reason to defeat him in November.

“This, in fact, is the most important election in our lifetime,” said Mr. Reiner, whose sentiments were echoed by actors Robert Gant of Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” and Steve Buscemi, formerly of HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

About a dozen Democratic politicians said they would work to advance homosexual interests, including passing laws to allow domestic partners to share Social Security benefits, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to include domestic partners and defeating a recently passed House bill that disallows federal courts to rule on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Instead of pushing for a federal marriage amendment, lawmakers should reverse course and push for a “gay rights constitutional amendment,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat.

“Let’s go on the offensive,” she yelled to the crowd. “I’m tired of being on the defensive.”

“The stakes have never been higher,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat and the first openly lesbian official elected to Congress.

“We have an extraordinary presence at this conference,” she said, noting she was appointed conference vice chairman and gave a prime-time speech. Homosexuals should support the Democratic ticket because “our nominee for president is the most pro-gay nominee in U.S. history.”

The homosexual community “is no longer put on the sidelines,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. “You’re an essential part of the Democratic family.”

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