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On marriage, delegates go beyond candidates

WASHINGTON -- Democratic convention delegates generally are more open to the prospect of gay marriage than are John Kerry and John Edwards, their presumed nominees for the presidential ticket.

In an Associated Press survey of Democratic National Convention delegates, roughly 41 percent of respondents said they favored marriage for same-sex couples, while about 21 percent opposed it. Most of the remaining delegates polled said their position didn't fit into a ''favor" or ''oppose" response, or declined to answer the question.

Kerry and Edwards oppose gay marriage itself but also are against a constitutional ban on same-sex nuptials, wanting to allow states to decide the issue. Kerry backs civil unions, which would give same-sex partners the same rights as married couples, without marriage.

President Bush, like Kerry, opposes gay marriage. Unlike the Massachusetts senator, the incumbent Republican supported the proposed constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage that failed in the Senate last week.

Overall, delegates' opinions on gay marriage run contrary to public opinion. For instance, a Pew Research Center poll released yesterday found that those who opposed gay marriage outnumbered those in favor, 67 percent to 32 percent. Among only Democrats, it was 47 percent opposed, 41 percent in favor, the Pew poll found.

Convention delegates typically come from the most loyal and activist wing of a political party. Democratic officials say gays will be represented in record numbers on the convention floor, boosted by delegate recruiting efforts in some states.

The AP surveyed more than 3,100 delegates, or nearly three-quarters of the 4,300-plus who will attend the convention. The results revealed differences along some geographic and racial lines.

About 80 percent of the delegation from Massachusetts -- its highest court has ruled that gay couples should be allowed full, equal marriage rights -- favored gay marriage. About 61 percent of California's delegates shared the same view, along with some 45 percent of New York's delegation.

But delegates from Southern states such as Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi tended to oppose gay marriage.

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