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Friday, September 4, 2009

In New York Republican Candidate Backs Same-Sex Marriage, Democrat Oppose It

The Washington Blade reported today that Gay Republicans are rallying behind a New York GOP candidate who favors same-sex marriage in her bid for the U.S. House against a Democratic contender who opposes marriage rights for gays.

Diedre “Dede” Scozzafava, a Republican New York state Assembly member, is seeking to represent her state’s 23rd congressional district. A member of the Assembly since 1999, Scozzafava voted in 2007 and again earlier this year in favor of bills to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

She’s facing off against Democrat Bill Owens, a Plattsburgh, N.Y., attorney, who last month said in a radio interview that he doesn’t support same-sex marriage. Doug Hoffman, a Lake Placid accountant, is running on the ticket for New York’s Conservative Party.

The seat will become vacant after the U.S. Senate confirms Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) as Army secretary. Lawmakers are expected to confirm McHugh to the position shortly after they return from the August recess.

McHugh must resign his congressional seat before New York Gov. David Paterson (D) can call for a special election, but some media outlets have speculated that the election would take place on Election Day in November.

Charles Moran, a Log Cabin spokesperson, said Scozzafava represents the views of New York’s 23rd congressional district because “she fiscally is fairly conservative, but … on the social issues she’s very much mainstream in what the district believes in and also what America believes in with marriage equality.”

“We love Dede,” he said. “This is a district where Dede has represented and lived for many years and this is just another example of Republicans continuing to push for an inclusive message.”

Scozzafava, who was unavailable for comment for this article, was quoted in a July 24 article in the Politico voicing support for same-sex marriage.

“I’m pro-choice, and I also support gay marriage,” she said. “The leadership might not like that — but the people that I’m closest to have voted for me, know me, and they’re very supportive.”

But one group opposed to same-sex marriage is infuriated over Scozzafava’s position. Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, said his organization contacted New York Republican officials and asked them to remove Scozzafava as their nominee in the race.

“It is a slap in the face to the voters of this district,” he said. “This is a socially conservative district and we hope that the nomination will be removed and someone else will be put in her place because this is not a good move for the Republican Party by any stretch.”

Scozzafava’s marriage position contrasts with that of her Democratic opponent. Owens, the Democratic contender for the House seat, told North County Public Radio on Aug. 12 that he doesn’t support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“People who are seeking civil unions should have that option,” Owens said. “However, I think that the word ‘marriage’ has some very important religious connotations and I would not be in support of a bill that addressed it in that fashion. But I certainly fully support civil rights for everyone in every area.”

The National Stonewall Democrats didn’t respond to a request for comment on Owens’ marriage stance.

Moran said Owens’ position shows that Democrats aren’t “necessarily in lockstep” on LGBT issues, such as same-sex marriage rights.

Log Cabin’s political action committee, Moran said, can’t endorse Scozzafava until Paterson officially calls for a special election. But once that takes place, Moran said Log Cabin’s endorsement would “come out … swiftly.”

“Our New York operation is primed and prepared to send Dede Scozzafava to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Log Cabin’s PAC will contribute to Scozzafava’s campaign, Moran said, and will bundle checks with a goal of reaching a combined contribution of somewhere between $25,000 and $50,000. Moran said he expects Scozzafava to win her bid for the U.S. House seat and that New York’s 23rd congressional district would stay in Republican hands.

Trevor Thomas, a Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, said his organization was seeking more information before making an endorsement decision.

“While the seat is not yet vacant, we have been in contact with both campaigns and have provided our questionnaire to learn more on their positions,” he said.

Brown said the National Organization for Marriage “will work to highlight Dede Scozzafava’s record” on marriage. He said NOM hasn’t determined whether it will endorse Owens or Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate.

“We’re determining how involved we are going to be, but are definitely going to be involved,” he said.

By Chris Johnson

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