Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist came under fire from gay activists Thursday, following a comment he made to a conservative political gathering that implied gay families are not legitimate.
"We will do whatever it takes to protect, preserve and strengthen the institution of marriage against activist judges," Sen. Frist, R-Tenn., told members of the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. "If that means we must amend the Constitution, we will do it."
Those judges, he added, are also "intent on destroying the traditional definition of family."
Frist's reference to "activist judges" was a swipe at the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which ruled Nov. 18 that the state Legislature must rewrite state law to recognize same-sex marriage.
GLBT rights advocates on both sides of the political aisle criticized Frist's comments.
"Millions of American families are legally threatened because lawmakers like Sen. Frist simply pretend that they don't exist," said Dave Noble, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.
Frist's remarks "make it hard to be a Republican," according to Mark Mead, director of public affairs for the Log Cabin Republicans. It's worse, he noted, coming on the heels of President Bush's State of the Union speech in which he repeated his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Mead told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network that progress on gay issues is slow within the Republican Party, however he believes things are slowly turning around.
"Many don't agree on equality issues," said Mead, "but many embrace gay Republicans, and we didn't have that 10 years ago."
Frist's comments were seen as one of the latest smacks in the face to members of the
gay community, arriving just before a major courtroom defeat on gay adoption. On
Wednesday, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Florida's ban on gay and lesbian adoption.
That decision, issued by a three-judge panel in Atlanta, was derided as "appalling and unconscionable" by Aimee Gelnaw, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition.
"They ruled against thousands and thousands of Florida children who need stable and loving homes," said Gelnaw in a prepared statement.
"We are living in dangerous times," said Rosie O'Donnell, who, along with her partner, Kelli, are adoptive parents. "It is my hope this case will be heard by the Supreme Court, where this absurd discriminatory decision will be reversed. What a sad day for all Americans."
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