April 9, 2005
G.O.P. Consultant Weds His Male Partner
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
WASHINGTON, April 8 - Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel over the last 25 years, said Friday that he had married his male partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.
Mr. Finkelstein, 59, who has made a practice of defeating Democrats by trying to demonize them as liberal, said in a brief interview that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.
"I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said.
He declined further comment on the wedding, which was in December.
Some of Mr. Finkelstein's associates said they were startled to learn that this prominent American conservative had married a man, given his history with the party, especially at a time when many Republican leaders, including President Bush, have campaigned against same-sex marriage and proposed amending the Constitution to ban it. Mr. Finkelstein has been allied over the years with Republicans who have fiercely opposed gay rights measures, including former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and has been the subject of attacks by gay rights activists who have accused him of hypocrisy. He was identified as gay in a Boston Magazine article in 1996.
One of Mr. Finkelstein's associates, who declined to speak on the record, citing Mr. Finkelstein's desire for privacy, said Mr. Finkelstein did not view his marriage as a political statement and had specifically decided to have a civil ceremony rather than a religious one. This associate argued that over the past 20 years, Mr. Finkelstein had identified himself as a libertarian and an opponent of big government, distancing himself from social conservatives as they have gained political muscle and dominance in the party.
Mr. Finkelstein's associates declined to provide his spouse's name. He was married at his home by a gay state official, whose name and office were not released. The ceremony was attended by relatives of both men, a few friends and a state legislator, an attendee said.
None of Mr. Finkelstein's better-known political clients, among them Gov. George E. Pataki of New York and former Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York, attended, that person said. Several of Mr. Finkelstein's long-term political associates said that he had not told them about the wedding, and that they had learned about it from a reporter.
The wedding was disclosed by an associate of Mr. Finkelstein's, and he confirmed it in the interview.
Mr. Finkelstein has frequently come under criticism by gay rights groups for representing politicians who have been ardent foes of gay rights. He helped create the template for a line of attack he repeatedly invoked against Democrats, including Mario M. Cuomo of New York, describing them as liberal.
In Israel, Mr. Finkelstein used similar attacks against the Labor Party as an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and as a consultant to the winning and losing campaigns of Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister.
Mr. Finkelstein has regularly described himself as a libertarian who supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights while opposing big government. In an interview with Maariv, an Israeli newspaper, after the American elections last year, he criticized the Republican Party as growing too close to evangelical Christians, warning it could cause long-term damage to the party.
Details of Mr. Finkelstein's relationship have appeared in regular news accounts over the years, as they did in the Boston Magazine article, which reported that Mr. Finkelstein lived with his partner and two children in Ipswich, Mass.
Still, some conservative friends said Mr. Finkelstein's marriage would roil conservatives and highlight divisions among them over the importance of social issues to their movement.
"In recent years, Arthur hasn't pretended to be a social conservative," said one longtime conservative associate, who cited Mr. Finkelstein's aversion to publicity in declining to be identified. "But this is the same man who was the architect of Jesse Helms's political rise."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company