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Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 12:30 UK
Tension over gay marriage in the US

By Jonathan Blake
Newsbeat's US reporter

Men holding hands
Same sex marriage is currently legal in four US states

There's growing tension in America over the issue of gay marriage after a new advert campaign targeting it, and a Miss USA contestant who spoke out against it during a televised competition.

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was asked by celeb blogger Perez Hilton, one of the judges, about same sex unions live on TV.

She replied that "a marriage should be between a man and a woman".

She came second in the competition and claimed she would have won if she hadn't made the comments.

Meanwhile the issue of gay marriages is a hot topic in New York where the state governor has put forward a proposal to allow same sex couples to marry.

Carrie Prejean (L), at the Miss USA beauty pageant with presenters Billy Bush and Nadine Velazquez
Ms Prejean says she does not regret her remarks

'Time to act'

Sipping his drink at the bar of the Stonewall Inn, Marvin Anden from the Bronx reckons gay marriage in New York is long overdue.

"It's about time that gay men and women are given the same rights as straight people."

He says he and his partner would consider getting married, if it were legal.

"It would be great in our home state. We have two friends who live in New York but they had to go to Massachusetts to get married."

Currently same sex marriage is legal in four US states; Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

Marvin agrees the state is lagging behind: "New York is considered the centre of the world where everything happens and everything starts."

But in a place seen by many as progressive and forward thinking, there is strong opposition to the plan.

Take a subway ride out to Queens and the relaxed, accepting atmosphere of Manhattan and its bars can seem a long way off.

Unpopular idea

"I don't think a lot of New Yorkers are going to like it," says Aileesh Shaw, 23, from Queens.

"You still have people who don't accept it," she adds.

One man says his religion means he can never support gay marriage.

"It's not good. My faith does not permit me to do that, I am a true worshipper of God," he said.

Many young New Yorkers here, like Reggie Thompson, are sceptical about gay marriage becoming legal.

He said: "I think it'll have a fight, but if not this time at a future point it will happen. It's a matter of time basically."

The issue of gay marriage is being debated across the US, not just in New York.

Ad campaign

gay marriage advert
The adverts say there is "a storm gathering" over gay marriage

Recent television ads by a group against same sex marriages warn of "a storm gathering".

The £1m adverts show characters on a bleak landscape saying: "The clouds are dark and the winds are strong. And I am afraid."

The National Organisation for Marriage claims the adverts are designed "to protect marriage and religious liberty throughout the nation".

America's largest Lesbian and Gay civil rights group has condemned the advert, saying it is "full of outrageous falsehoods".

At one point in the advert, a man says people in favour of same-sex marriage "want to bring the issue into my life".

Later, a woman says "my freedom will be taken away".

The Human Rights Campaign described the advert as "phoney" and has accused the makers of hiring actors to "peddle their lies".

Election factor

But Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, claims gay marriage "will have consequences for the freedoms of traditional faith communities".

Marvin Anden
Marvin says gay men and women should have equal rights

Opponents of New York state governor David Patterson claim he is introducing the bill now because he needs the votes.

He has low approval ratings and is facing re-election in 2010.

A recent poll suggested a majority of New Yorkers are in favour of his gay marriage bill by a margin of 53 to 39 per cent.

Back in the Stonewall Inn, where there were riots against police raids on gay bars in the 1960s, Marvin admits his struggle for equality is far from over.

"People have the values they were raised with, the beliefs they think are correct and unfortunately they're forcing them on other people," he said.

"Once in a while you get a sneer from young kids who can't understand it or older people who just can't accept it."



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