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Antigay crusader defends limited protections for same-sex couples

Antigay crusader defends limited protections for same-sex couples

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James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based antigay religious group Focus on the Family (pictured), has found himself the target of other far-right leaders after voicing support for a Colorado measure that would provide limited rights to same-sex couples.

After being criticized by fellow Christian conservatives for his unexpected support of proposed legislation that would give same-sex couples some limited legal protections, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson used his radio broadcast Thursday to fight back. Bloggers and Christian commentators have criticized Dobson for endorsing a Colorado measure that would allow any two people who can't marry to sign up and obtain the right to visit one another in the hospital, transfer property, and make medical decisions for one another. The measure is competing with a domestic-partnership proposal from Democratic lawmakers in Denver, which the Colorado Springs-based ministry and other conservatives oppose because it would be available only for gay couples, which they say is discriminatory. The domestic-partnership measure also would treat gay couples essentially the same as married couples under the law, at least at the statewide level. The proposal supported by Focus on the Family provides only those rights that people can obtain currently if they hire an attorney to draw up the paperwork. Dobson, who is also supporting a measure to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage in the state, said he believes in providing equality under the law but doesn't want to redefine marriage. He speculated that commentators who aren't as well-known as he is are trying to get more attention for themselves by criticizing him. He said one blogger posting on Alan Keyes's Web site called the proposal "a drag queen in proper conservative blue blazer, button-down shirt, and red tie." The posting had been removed by Thursday, and Keyes issued an apology to Dobson on the site. "I'm used to getting beaten from the radicals, from the Left. I deal with that because that goes with the territory," Dobson said. "I really find it very difficult to be attacked in such an unfair way from conservatives who claim to follow the cause of Christ." Another critic, Paul Cameron of the Colorado Springs-based Family Research Institute, said Thursday that Dobson has "come off the tracks" of the Christian movement in backing rights for gay couples. Cameron believes gay people are more prone to crime and disease and don't have children, so they shouldn't be entitled to the same rights as married people. "The destructive should never get the honors that belong to the productive," he said. Cameron is also critical of Focus on the Family's attempts to get gay people to change their sexuality, saying the group is wrong to focus on gays as "victims." The bill's sponsor, Republican state senator Shawn Mitchell, has long opposed expanding gay rights but said he got the idea for his proposal after reading an essay by Ramesh Ponnuru in the National Review last June. Mitchell said he wanted to address complaints that gays are discriminated against but avoid the issue of whether their relationships should be recognized as marriage or something like it. He said his bill isn't a political ploy to head off the Democratic proposal and said he had tried to win the support of software millionaire and gay rights advocate Tim Gill. Gill's political adviser, Ted Trimpa, confirmed he met with Mitchell to discuss it but said the final language of the bill didn't go far enough. "The fact that they're supporting the issue means they recognize there's economic, health, and financial unfairness," Trimpa said. "At least their proposal starts to address that." Mitchell thinks his approach could take the same-sex marriage issue off the table so lawmakers can address other matters that he said affect more people. "I'm excited about what seems to be a fair and reasonable solution to some of these issues. If some of the extremists on both sides of the issue are shooting at it, maybe I'm on to something," he said. (AP)

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