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Albany, N.Y.-The New York State Bar Association would advocate gay marriage legislation under a proposal put together by a closely divided special panel. The 380-page report, which will be acted upon at a later date, underscores the divisive debate over how to recognize the equal protection and due process rights of same-sex couples. It traces the legal and historical traditions of marriage and civil liberties, and concludes that homosexual couples are denied many of the rights and privileges afforded to heterosexuals. Nine of the 12 members of the Special Committee to Study Issues Affecting Same Sex Couples agree that the New York Legislature should enact comprehensive legislation to ensure equal protection for gays and straights. Five of them would extend civil marriage benefits to gay couples. Four support equal benefits for homosexual relationships but would not take a position on the specific remedy. The remaining three members, including two former presidents, urge the organization to refrain from taking a stance on what they say amounts to a social/public policy issue. So far, only one state bar in the nation, the Massachusetts Bar Association, has taken a position on same-sex marriage, which it supports.

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