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U.S. senator
Feingold comes out for marriage equality

U.S. senator
Feingold comes out for marriage equality


A leading Democratic contender for president in 2008, U.S. senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, has revealed that he supports giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

U.S. senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, a leading Democratic contender in the 2008 presidential race, has revealed that he supports giving gay and lesbian couples full marriage equality. According to a statement released on Tuesday, Feingold said over the weekend that he strongly opposes the proposed civil unions and marriage ban facing Wisconsin voters this fall and supports the right of same-sex couples to marry.

"As I said at the Kenosha County listening session, gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges, and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy," Feingold said in the statement. "Denying people this basic American right is the kind of discrimination that has no place in our laws, especially in a progressive state like Wisconsin. The time has come to end this discrimination and the politics of divisiveness that has become part of this issue."

The move was immediately praised by gay rights leaders and political activists across the country. "Senator Feingold's announcement today is more than an important step forward in the struggle for equal rights," said Matt Foreman, executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "At long last, progressive and fair-minded Americans have a leader taking the ethically and morally correct stand for marriage equality--no equivocation, waffling, or hairsplitting."

"Senator Feingold's public support for marriage fairness is the type of leadership this country so desperately needs and deserves," added Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. "He understands that America is at its best when all members of our society are treated equally."

Feingold is not the first U.S. senator to come out for full marriage equality--he joins Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Democrats Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon. But he is the first major contender for president to do so. "In the past we've had presidential contenders come out for a more general concession of equality," Evan Wolfson, executive director for Freedom to Marry, told TheAdvocate. "Now you have a major presidential contender going all the way. And he's doing so in a way that is very intelligent. He's not just saying 'I'm for it.' He makes the case for it. He will win the support of those who agree with him. But he will also win the respect of those who don't agree with him. He is giving people something to work with."

Wolfson noted that in the past year leading candidates for major offices have been clamoring to publicly support marriage equality. "Candidates for governor in California, Connecticut, and New York have all come out for marriage this year," he said. "These are young, aspiring, ambitious candidates, and they have determined it's right to come out in favor of what they believe in."

Jo Wyrick, interim executive director for the gay political group National Stonewall Democrats, said Feingold's statement is part of a larger movement. "Americans are quickly moving toward full support for marriage equality, and we are seeing a new generation of Democrats emerge whose leadership will help turn that support into law," Wyrick said. "Senator Feingold understands that religious institutions should have the freedom to marry adherents according to their interpretation of their faith and not the dictates of politicians." (The Advocate)

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