Autor: David D. Kirkpatrick Fuente: New York Times

Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage called this week's California Supreme Court decision nullifying San Francisco's marriage licenses a minor prelude to bigger battles at the ballot box. Both social conservatives and gay rights groups say their debate is becoming increasingly intertwined with the presidential election.
Social conservatives have argued for months that voters, not judges, should ultimately settle the issue of legal recognition for gay couples. They have organized to put constitutional amendments blocking same-sex marriages on the ballots in a dozen states this fall, including the pivotal swing states of Oregon, Michigan and Ohio.
And after the strong turnout in support of a similar measure in Missouri on Aug. 3, some conservative strategists said that the referendums could help President Bush by motivating traditionalists to vote. "It could well be what swings the election," said Grover Norquist, a strategist close to the Bush campaign.
Phil Burress, a veteran organizer who is working to amend the Ohio Constitution, said a California ruling in favor of same-sex marriage might actually have helped his efforts even more. "What really would have fired us up is if it had been a decision that would have been more judicial tyranny," Mr. Burress said. "When we win one, it doesn't fire us up. It surprises us that the judges got it right. We high-fived for a couple of minutes around the office and then we went back to work."
But in a shift from their previous strategy, some gay rights groups fighting the amendments banning same-sex marriage said yesterday that they, too, would use advertisements aimed at making the debate an issue in the presidential election.
Cheryl Jacques, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the main groups fighting for gay marriage, said the group plans to argue in advertising campaigns in Ohio and other swing states that the Bush campaign and its allies are orchestrating the marriage amendment efforts in order to distract voters from other issues.
"There is a single puppet master behind these efforts, and that is George W. Bush and his allies," Ms. Jacques said in an interview. "They will try to make this an issue, and are going to remind people what they already know, that most people don't wake up in the morning thinking about gay and lesbian marriage or any gay issue. They wake up in the morning thinking about jobs and health care and the war in Iraq."
To suggest that Mr. Bush's campaign is behind the state initiatives, advocates of same-sex marriage have pointed to a letter that Ken Blackwell, a Republican who is secretary of state of Ohio, wrote to his supporters saying that the Bush campaign had asked him to support the state's amendment. Representatives of Mr. Blackwell and Mr. Bush did not dispute the letter.
But Mr. Burress said Republican leaders in Ohio had initially resisted his efforts to put the amendment on the ballot.
Some conservatives contended that accusing Mr. Bush of fighting same-sex marriage would help him and hurt Mr. Kerry, the Democratic candidate. In the Missouri election, gay rights groups spent $450,000 and their opponents only $19,000. The turnout was twice as high as in a typical state primary and the amendment to ban gay marriage passed with 71 percent support.
"I would think the Kerry campaign would want to talk to the Human Rights Campaign," said Gary Bauer, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and founder of the organization American Values. "If I am for marriage between a man and a women, then I should vote for George Bush. I think that is the last message Senator John Kerry wants to be connected with in the minds of voters."
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said: "The president has made his position clear, that he believes the institution of marriage should be preserved. This issue was forced on the country by a group of activist judges, and states across the country have measures on the ballot for the fall election which will preserve the institution of marriage, and voters will let their voices be heard."
Some Democrats argued that the ballot measures might not damage Mr. Kerry. Phil Singer, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, said Mr. Kerry also opposed same-sex marriage, although he opposed amending the federal Constitution to ban same-sex unions. "John Kerry believes a marriage is between a man and a woman but doesn't think that the Constitution should be used as a way to divide the country," Mr. Singer said.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has worked for the Human Rights Campaign, argued that the Bush campaign's support for the amendments could backfire. "Voters will say this is not the priority right now," she said. "The issue here is Iraq and the economy, not gay marriage. They are using this to distract and deflect from their failures on Iraq and the economy. Which are you more worried about?"
Of the three swing states where same-sex marriage amendments are likely to appear on the ballot, Ms. Lake argued, Ohio was the only one where it might make a difference. She argued that the amendment was not very popular in Oregon and that Mr. Kerry could carry Michigan by turning out voters among traditionally Democratic groups like union members and African-Americans.
"Ohio is a different story," Ms. Lake said. "It is very close and it could have an impact there."
Both sides of the marriage battle say they plan to step up their efforts as the election nears. Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said opponents of same-sex marriage were relying on like-minded churches to turn out their members, just as they did in Missouri. On Sept. 19, he and other well-known conservative Christians will hold their third national telecast to churches around the country this year to discuss the issue.
They will speak from the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark. The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State has argued that the church violated the requirements of its tax-exempt status by engaging in politics.
Gay groups, meanwhile, are continuing to press their case in courts. Last week, a court in Washington State ruled in favor of a same-sex couple's right to marry, setting the stage for an appeals battle there. Other cases are pending in state courts in New Jersey and Oregon, and a Constitutional challenge is under way in federal court in Florida.
Another case is pending in California, too. The court's ruling this week addressed only the procedural matter of whether the mayor of San Francisco could issue marriage licenses. Another case working its way through the court system will settle the underlying issue of same-sex marriage rights under the state Constitution, but that case could take years to resolve.
Still, Jordan Lorence, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, a socially conservative legal group that has filed briefs in many of the cases, argued that court victories for same-sex marriage were unlikely to settle much. Even in Massachusetts, he said, opponents were still trying to change the state Constitution. "The final decision is going to be made by the voters," he said.
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