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Gay Marriage Opponents, Supporters Agree Obama Re-Ignites Debate

Gay rights advocates and opponents will debate same-sex marriage on KET’s Kentucky Tonight program Monday with both sides agreeing President Obama's recent support has triggered a new discussion.In 2004, three-fourths of voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. But gay rights activists highlight a recent survey that shows 83 percent of registered voters in Kentucky now support civil protections for LGBT individuals.Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman is participating in the KET debate. He says things have changed over the past eight years and revisiting the topic is appropriate given Mr. Obama’s remarks."I absolutely believe that President Obama’s support of same gender marriage has reignited the debate across the nation and really opened the door for more support than there ever has been before,” he says. "I think Democrats are proceeding more timidly than they need to be. Everyone in America, including conservatives and independents across the border are in support of full LGBT fairness and equality."Critics of the president argue he has flip flopped on gay marriage due to pressure from special interest groups during an election year. In 1996, Mr. Obama was running for state Senator in Illinois and backed gay marriage when he signed a letter supporting the proposal.Until his recent announcement, however, Mr. Obama had for years as an incumbent official said marriage was a traditional institution "sanctified between a man and a woman."Kent Ostrander is executive director of The Family Foundation of Kentucky, who is also participating in the KET debate. He says the president opposed same-sex marriage during his 2004 Senate campaign and 2008 bid for the White House, but has bowed to gay rights groups for political purposes."I don’t know his heart and I don’t know his conscience. But it appears since he was once for it out in the public and then against when he ran for president and now for it again, I do suspect there’s political pressure during this election year that’s causing him to gyrate and make different perspectives," he says.The Kentucky Tonight panel will also feature the Rev. Derek Penwell, senior minister at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Louisville and the Rev. Hershael York, senior pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort.The show will be broadcast live on KET and airs Monday at 8:00 p.m./7:00 p.m. CT

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