One of the United States’ key national gay lobby groups The Human Rights Campaign [HRC]has thrown its weight behind the John Kerry Presidential campaign.

From voting against the Defense of Marriage Act to actively opposing -˜Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ John Kerry is a true leader for our community, HRC President Cheryl Jacques said.

Just six months into his first Senate term in 1985, he introduced a gay civil rights bill. His aggressive support for our community continued unabated for the years that followed, demonstrated time and again by perfect HRC ratings on GLBT issues in Congress.

Although the Democrat Senator has a long track record on gay and lesbian issues he has recently made clear that he is not a supporter of same sex marriage. He rejects President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, but earlier this year he expressed cautious support for a similar amendment in his home state of Massachusetts.

If the Massachusetts Legislature crafts an appropriate amendment that provides for partnership and civil unions, then I would support it, and it would advance the goal of equal protection, Kerry told the Boston Globe, adding that a parallel system for same-sex partnerships would have to be part of any potential amendment. I think that you need to have civil union. That’s my position.

In 1996, Sen. Kerry was one of only 14 senators, and the only up for re-election, to cast a vote against the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. He also testified in front of a Senate committee in 1993 against the policy that prohibits military service by openly gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

However the HRC endorsement has not been welcomed by all gay and lesbian leaders. His stand on same sex marriage is a problem for people like Geoffrey Kors, the executive director of Equality California, an organization working for full equality for GLBT Californians.

It is very disappointing he has indicated he would support a state amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution to overturn the historic Goodrich decision [legalizing same-sex marriage] and for the first time to write discrimination against a group of people into his home state’s constitution, Kors told gay.com .

However HRC’s Jacques says her organization is prepared to live with Kerry’s stand on the issue.

While we disagree with Senator Kerry on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, he is firmly opposed to the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would deny our community equality for generations. His opposition stands in stark contrast to President Bush, who has not only endorsed the amendment but is one of its chief advocates, Jacques said.

Kerry responded enthusiastically to the endorsement.

I want to thank HRC for its endorsement. We have worked together on so many battles and we still have many challenges ahead of us. I know that America finds its strength in the diversity of this great country. I have worked for than 20 years to make sure that LGBT Americans are treated with dignity in our society and equality in our laws. That fight is not over and I will be there for the fights in the future, Kerry said.

Kerry is a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and voted for the bill in 1996. In his Senate office, Kerry has a policy prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The HRC decision was made by its board of directors based on the candidate’s support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality, demonstrated leadership and his viability to win in the election scheduled for November.

More: An interview with Kerry on GLBT issues

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