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Bradley would promote gay rights

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lining up more closely with the homosexual
community's agenda than Vice President Al Gore, Democratic
presidential hopeful Bill Bradley called for expanding the 1964
Civil Rights Act to protect gays and lesbians.

Bradley also rejected the Clinton administration's "don't ask,
don't tell" policy for the armed services and said, "We ought to
get to a time when gays can serve openly in the military."

The former New Jersey senator, in a gay and lesbian newsmagazine
interview due on newsstands Sept. 28, went on to criticize a
California anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative.

"If I was a voter in California, I would not support the Knight
initiative," Bradley told The Advocate. "I think it's divisive
and ... I don't think a referendum is the place for this kind of an
initiative."

Bradley said he still opposes same-sex marriage because of "the
religious nature of marriage and respect for the diversity of views
on that subject." Both he and Gore, who also opposes same-sex
marriage, favor legal protections for "domestic partners."

Bradley and Gore, rivals for next year's Democratic presidential
nomination, are dueling for the gay and lesbian vote.

On several issues dear to that community, Bradley, in his
interview, came out ahead of positions that Gore laid out in a
separate Advocate interview, published last month.

On the so-called Knight initiative on California's March 2000
ballot, a bellwether for the gay community because it would define
marriage as between a man and woman only, Gore told The Advocate:
"I'm going to have to educate myself on that measure."

Late Thursday, after Bradley's interview was released, Gore
campaign spokeswoman Kikki Moore said the vice president had
decided he would, if he was a California resident, also vote "no"
on Knight. "Consider him educated," Moore said.

Going further than Gore's push for a pending
anti-job-discrimination bill, Bradley said he would add sexual
orientation to the historic 1964 act outlawing racial, religious
and sex discrimination in employment, housing, lending and public
accommodations.

"That would clearly indicate that discrimination against gays
is in the same category as discrimination against other protected
groups," Bradley said.

Such an expansion was first championed by New York liberal Rep.
Bella Abzug in 1973. But in 1993, the gay community considered
public-opinion polls, pared back its hopes and pursued the more
widely politically palatable Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Moore said Gore is focusing on the act as "the most practical
way to move forward on an agenda of non-discrimination" because
"it can actually pass."

U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry, who
was appointed by President Clinton, called Bradley's approach
"naive."

"I hope it doesn't go anywhere. We have avoided opening up the
Civil Rights Act for fear that (conservative) amendments would be
added to gut it," Berry said.

Jesse Jackson, whose influential endorsement both Gore and
Bradley are courting, also weighed in with some skepticism today.

"I want to discuss it with (Bradley). If there's an amendment
that could include all people, that's fair," Jackson said. "But
we would not want to open up that bill because, with this
right-wing Congress, they could restrict it rather than expand
civil rights."

In the military, Bradley said, homosexuals should be allowed to
serve openly, but he admitted that he has not determined "the
timing and method" of such a change to military policy.

Bradley voted in 1993 for a Senate amendment to lift outright
the military's ban on gays. But Congress passed -- and Clinton
signed into law -- the "don't ask, don't tell" policy allowing
gays to serve as long as their sexuality remained a secret.

Gore, in this campaign season, has said only that the current
policy has led to too many unfair gay discharges and should be
implemented with "more compassion."

Bradley's position "clearly represents a different, more
positive thinking than the vice president's," said David Smith,
spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay
right's group.

On the full menu of gay issues, Bradley and Gore have virtually
identical records, but Gore has trumped Bradley in "energy and
commitment," Smith said.

"Senator Bradley comes off as ambivalent at best. But these
statements in this article certainly send the right message and I'm
sure it will cause several potential voters to perhaps look more
closely at his candidacy," Smith said.

In 1996 exit polls, self-identified gay voters accounted for 5
percent of the total voting public, and 7 percent of Clinton's
support.

Bradley campaign spokesman Eric Hauser said Bradley gave the
interview because the magazine requested it and not to court gay
voters.

"He spoke from his heart," Hauser said.

Telling the magazine that he has gay friends but no gay family,
Bradley said homosexuality "happens to be an attribute about as
meaningful as having blond hair."

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