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Robert Voorheis says he knew the instant he saw his partner of 23 years that it was a match meant to be.

"I saw him across the room and that was it," Voorheis says of his partner, Michael Sabatino. A year later in 1979, the two walked down the aisle of Washington Square Methodist Church in New York City after a commitment ceremony that included Gospel readings, hymns, and the Lord's Prayer.

Voorheis and Sabatino say they are pioneers in a movement that seeks equal recognition and legal rights for same-sex couples who want to wed. Both gay-marriage advocates and traditional marriage activists are stepping up their activity in courtrooms and statehouses across the county.

In July, for example, two lesbians living in Massachusetts became the first American couple to travel to the Netherlands to avail themselves of that nation's new homosexual marriage law. The couple is expected to seek recognition in Massachusetts courts.

Also in July, conservative forces began a new phase of the struggle against gay marriage when the Alliance for Marriage, a nonprofit educational organization, proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment is backed by a racially and religiously diverse coalition that includes Catholic Richard Neuhaus, Baptist Rich Cizik, and Muslim Aly Abu Zaakah, among 40 others.

"[Homosexual marriage] is a direct attack on the family as an institution," says Bishop George McKinney of the Church of God in Christ, one of the nation's largest African-American denominations. "The idea that marriage can be redefined because some people choose to live a different lifestyle is, in my opinion, utter foolishness."

The proposed amendment states: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only ...

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Marriage: Defining Marriage
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October 1, 2001

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