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President Bush has renominated Claude A. Allen for the fourth U.S. circuit court of appeals, which could lead to another battle with Democrats. When the 2003 U.S. Senate session ended in December, Democratic leaders promised to oppose the nomination of Allen, deputy secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. The nomination of the 42-year-old Republican, who was Virginia secretary of health and human resources in Gov. Jim Gilmore's administration, was returned to the White House when the Senate went home. The move signaled Democrats' strong opposition and required the White House to resubmit Allen's nomination if Bush chose to pursue it. Tuesday, Bush renominated Allen. Allen is not only a foe of abortion rights and an advocate of using federal funds to promote abstinence until marriage, he has been criticized by gay rights groups for an apparently antigay remark he made while working as a spokesman for retired senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). During Helms's reelection campaign in 1984 against former governor Jim Hunt, a Democrat, Allen criticized Hunt for his connections "with the queers." Allen told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that the remark had referred to unusual people and was not meant to put down gays and lesbians. Maryland's two Democratic senators, Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, said they would move to block Allen's confirmation on the grounds that the federal appellate seat for which he was nominated belongs by tradition and fairness to Maryland. The fourth circuit hears appeals from Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.