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Democratic money went to help defeat state marriage amendments, Howard Dean says

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Democratic National Committee funded efforts last November to defeat proposed constitutional marriage amendments in Arizona and Wisconsin as well as a pro-amendment proposal in Illinois, DNC Chairman Howard Dean said Feb. 2 at the party’s winter meeting, adding that homosexual Republicans would be “a lot more comfortable in our party.”

Dean’s comments were reported Feb. 9 by the Washington Blade newspaper, which also said Democratic leaders have pledged to push two bills this session backed by homosexual activists. The Blade is a newspaper geared toward homosexuals.

Speaking to the party’s GLBT Caucus (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender), Dean praised the work of Brian Bond, the executive director of the DNC’s Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council. Bond and others in the council “told us where to put money,” Dean said.

“And one of those places we put some money was Illinois, getting a very discriminatory and nasty ballot item off — helping to get it off — the ballot,” Dean said, according to the Blade. “And for having put a little money into Wisconsin, where we didn’t win, but where my former campaign manager in Wisconsin ran an initiative. And most satisfying of all, of course: Putting a little dough into the effort to beat back those kinds of amendments in Arizona.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we have made some progress. And we have more to make.”

Wisconsin was one of seven states on Election Day to adopt marriage amendments, although Arizona became the first state to defeat one. A non-binding resolution in Illinois calling for a marriage amendment failed to make the ballot when a significant number of signatures were tossed out as invalid. Pro-family officials in Arizona and Illinois say they’ll likely try again in 2008.

The Democratic platform adopted in 2004 opposed efforts to pass a federal marriage amendment, although it was silent on the issue of state constitutional marriage amendments, which 27 states have adopted. Many Democrats no doubt disagree with the DNC’s actions to defeat amendments on the state level. As a representative in the U.S. House, Democratic Leadership Council Chairman Harold Ford Jr. twice voted for the federal marriage amendment and also supported Tennessee’s marriage amendment, which passed last fall.

“Marriage in our country has always been the union between a man and a woman,” Amanda Banks, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, told Baptist Press. “The high majority of Americans want it to remain that way. The fact that the DNC would contribute to redefining marriage in our country is very troublesome.”

Dean said he would do “everything in my power” to help Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people in both the public and private workplace. Pro-family groups have opposed ENDA because it equates homosexuality with such traits as race, ethnicity, gender and religion and because they say it would violate religious freedoms, forcing church ministries to hire people opposed to orthodox Christianity.

Banks said ENDA could impact Focus on the Family’s hiring practices.

“We’re concerned about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” she said. “… When you have a very clear Christian mission, you want to hire people that are in line with those beliefs.”

Bill Murat, chief of staff for Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, said Congress would try to pass a hate crimes bill this spring before it tackles ENDA this fall, the Blade reported. Baldwin is lesbian. The hate crimes bill would expand the current law to include homosexuals and the transgendered.

In 2005, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land and more than 40 other conservative leaders wrote a letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, urging opposition to the hate crimes bill.

In the past, they said, the government has granted civil rights protections “based on certain immutable characteristics shared by humanity generally,” Land and the others wrote. Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

They also said the bill could silence churches. When the government establishes “more and more special rights,” it places limitations not only “upon actions, but speech and thought as well,” the pro-family leaders told Frist. “This trend will prepare the way for the outright ban of criticism of a lifestyle believed by millions of people of religious conviction to be contrary to the laws of God and nature. Thus, granting special rights and protections to homosexuals is inevitably a step toward removing rights from those who oppose homosexuality.”

Meanwhile, GLBT Caucus Chairman Rick Stafford said the DNC has a voluntary goal for 2008 that at least 6 percent of each state’s delegation to the Democratic Convention will be homosexual, the Blade reported.

“There are many states that will have higher percentages,” Stafford said. “This was kind of a threshold for those states -— those 10 or 12 states — that have never elected any LGBT delegate to a national convention.”

But 6 percent would be an over-representation of the population. In 2003 a coalition of homosexual organizations wrote a legal brief in the Lawrence v. Texas case in which they said the most “widely accepted” statistic is that 2.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women are homosexual. The statistic is from the National Health and Social Life Survey.

Dean made a reference to the Log Cabin Republicans — an organization for homosexual GOP supporters — saying he’d welcome them.

“[T]hey’ll feel a [expletive] of a lot more comfortable in our party,” he said, according to the Blade.
With reporting by Tom Strode.

For information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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