Mass. Democrats fault GOP’s Senate hopeful on gay marriage stance

Michael SullivanPhoto: Greg Derr, The Patriot Ledger/AP

Michael Sullivan
Photo: Greg Derr, The Patriot Ledger/AP

BOSTON — Massachusetts Democrats are faulting Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Michael Sullivan on the issue of same-sex marriage even as Sullivan scrambled to say he opposes a federal law that bars benefits for same-sex couples.

The clash came as a new poll found Democratic hopeful Edward Markey leading all candidates by double digit leads.

Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said Sullivan is out of touch with Massachusetts, which became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. “One issue people in Massachusetts have decided is equal marriage rights for our gay and lesbian neighbors,” Walsh said.

Michael Sullivan
Photo: Greg Derr, The Patriot Ledger/AP

Sullivan said Wednesday he’s a “traditionalist” on marriage, believing it should be between a man and a woman.

“I don’t know how controversial that is. (President Barack) Obama himself has essentially described himself as a traditionalist when it came to the definition of marriage. John Kerry, I understand, has essentially taken the same position,” Sullivan said after dropping off voter signatures guaranteeing him a spot on the GOP primary ballot.

Obama and Kerry have since voiced support for gay marriage.

Later Wednesday, Sullivan’s campaign issued a statement saying he believes the federal Defense of Marriage Act should be overturned. The act denies legally married gay couples a range of federal benefits available to married same-sex couples.

“I believe DOMA should be reversed and the federal government should respect those states that recognize gay marriage by providing those couples with the same level of benefits,” Sullivan said in the statement.

Earlier, Sullivan was asked how he would vote as a senator on the gay marriage issue. He would say only that he would look at any future bill that came before Congress.

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Sullivan also said he was proud of his record as a state and federal prosecutor, protecting people against discrimination, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

“I recognize that gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts,” he said. “I’ve done nothing to undermine that. I respect the fact that there are loving relationships among same-sex people.”

Sullivan is the only candidate in the race who has said he is opposed to gay marriage.

The two Democratic candidates, Markey and Stephen Lynch, and fellow Republicans Daniel Winslow and Gabriel Gomez all say they support gay marriage.

Winslow said Democrats are targeting Sullivan because they hope to spark support for him among GOP primary voters, assuming he would be the easiest to defeat in the general election.

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