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Gay-Rights Advocates Say Obama’s Stance Will Help Their Cause

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland came out in support of his state’s yet-to-be-enacted measure legalizing same-sex marriage. Gay-rights advocates say President Barack Obama’s public support of gay marriage is shifting the landscape.

Groups lobbying for same-sex marriage may not receive the infusion of cash President Barack Obamas campaign took in after he announced support for their cause. But gay-rights advocates say the commander in chief built needed momentum for their cause ahead of initiatives in up to four states this fall.

Obamas endorsement could energize a base grappling with last weeks vote in North Carolina, where residents overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

The loss in North Carolina together with the presidents strong endorsement has definitely fired up folks who want to volunteer and get involved, said Kevin Nix of Marylanders for Marriage Equality. That group is working to retain a passed but not-yet-enacted state measure that approves same-sex marriages. Maryland voters are likely to see the matter on the November ballot.

Weve been having a good sense of momentum since the bill passed in March, Nix said. This gives another boost to the campaign as we head into the summer and fall.

After Obamas announcement, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) came out in support of his states law. So have Members in Washington state, Maine and Minnesota, where voters will consider gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot this fall.

Obamas campaign and Democratic Party officials are spotlighting the issue in fundraising messages after the presidents re-election effort saw a surge in donations linked to the May 9 announcement.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, said that even though his side has seen progress on a signature federal issue repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act he expects little movement on Capitol Hill for the rest of this Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed, on a party-line vote, a repeal of the 1996 law, which bans federal recognition of state-authorized same-sex marriages.

The Judiciary panels vote was definitely a milestone step, Cole-Schwartz said. Theres no appetite in the House leadership for that kind of thing quite the opposite.

He said the repeal measure is not likely to have the votes to carry in the full Senate and that his side is looking for a GOP co-sponsor.

Much of the HRCs activity will instead focus on state measures. Washington state lawmakers approved a same-sex marriage law, though, like Maryland, it might face a referendum come November. Same-sex marriage supporters in Maine successfully got a measure on the ballot. And voters in Minnesota will decide whether to adopt a ban.

Cole-Schwartz said HRC will contribute money and in-kind support to activists in the states, as it did in North Carolina.

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