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A longtime and well-known consultant who has directed a series of highly conservative political campaigns to elect candidates in the United States and Israel, including former antigay stalwart U.S. senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, has acknowledged that he married his male partner in Massachusetts. Arthur J. Finkelstein declined to provide details of the wedding other than to say it it was a civil ceremony in his Bay State home last December, according to The New York Times. Finkelstein, 59, who has made a practice of defeating Democrats by trying to demonize liberalism, said in a brief interview with the paper that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples. "I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits, and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said. Some of Finkelstein's associates said they were startled to learn of the wedding given his history with the GOP, especially at a time when many Republican leaders, including President Bush, have campaigned against same-sex marriage and proposed amending the U.S. Constitution to ban it. Finkelstein has been allied over the years with Republicans who have fiercely opposed gay rights measures and has been the subject of attacks by gay rights activists who have accused him of hypocrisy. He was identified as gay in a Boston Magazine article in 1996. One of Finkelstein's associates, who declined to speak on the record with the Times, said Finkelstein did not view his marriage as a political statement and had specifically decided to have a civil ceremony rather than a religious one. The associate also argued that over the past 20 years, Finkelstein had identified himself as a libertarian and an opponent of big government, distancing himself from social conservatives as they have gained political muscle and dominance in the party. Finkelstein has said he supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv after the American election last year, he criticized the Republican Party as growing too close to evangelical Christians, warning it could cause long-term damage to the party. Details of Finkelstein's relationship have appeared in regular news accounts over the years, as they did in the Boston Magazine article, which reported that he lived with his partner and two children in Ipswich, Mass. Still, some conservative friends said Finkelstein's marriage would upset conservatives and highlight divisions among them over the importance of social issues to their movement. "In recent years, Arthur hasn't pretended to be a social conservative," one longtime conservative associate told the Times, citing Finkelstein's aversion to publicity in declining to be identified. "But this is the same man who was the architect of Jesse Helms's political rise."