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GLN IN THE PRESS

Gay leader: Marriage issue a fake

Says GOP trying to obscure nation's deeper problems

By Josh Noel, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune news services contributed to this report

Published June 7, 2006 - LINK

While senators in Washington debated a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage, activists in downtown Chicago denounced the measure Tuesday as a Republican Party diversion from the nation's true ills.

Outside the Kluczynski Federal Building at midday, Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, said the GOP is using the issue to deflect attention from the war in Iraq, questionable intelligence-gathering ordered by the White House and President Bush's sagging job-approval ratings.

"The Republican Party is using gays and lesbians as a scapegoat for the nation's problems," Thayer said. "We reject this scapegoating."

Meanwhile, Bush issued a fresh appeal for passage.

"The administration believes that the future of marriage in America should be decided through the democratic constitutional amendment process, rather than by the court orders of a few," a White House statement said.

The Marriage Protection Amendment was expected to fail a test vote early Wednesday.

More than half of Americans, 58 percent, said in an ABC News poll this week that same-sex marriages should be illegal. But only 40 percent said they support amending the Constitution to ban them. A majority said states should make their own laws on gay marriage.

"Whether it passes or not this time, I do not believe the sponsors are going to fall back and cry about it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "I think they are going to keep bringing it up."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a potential 2008 presidential candidate, told the Senate on Tuesday he does not support the amendment.

In Chicago, Thayer said it was important to speak out because "we've got people in Washington, D.C., talking about us in the third person, and we want to be speaking for ourselves."

And Gay Liberation Network member Bob Schwartz said the issue "is really about civil rights."

"Rather than `gay marriage,' I prefer to call it `marriage equality,'" he said.

Speakers also criticized the Democratic Party for not opposing the proposed amendment vigorously enough.

Among Democrats, all except Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska oppose the amendment and say the debate is a divisive effort to energize social conservatives this election year.

"The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution," said Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, which legalized gay marriage in 2003. "A vote for it is a vote against civil unions, against domestic partnership, against all other efforts for states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law."

Several passersby in downtown Chicago said they support allowing same-sex couples to be married.

"I'm all for equal marriage rights for all," said Juan Martinez, 28, a graduate student. "Twenty years from now, it will seem foolish that anyone was against this."

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jbnoel@tribune.com

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune



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