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CLINTON TO SIGN BAN ON GAY MARRIAGES

In what opposing sides both called evidence of President Clinton's strategic move to the political center, the White House said Clinton would sign legislation outlawing gay marriages.

In angry reaction, a gay-rights group withdrew an invitation for a White House adviser to speak at a dinner next month.Clinton is on record opposing same-sex marriages, and the White House already had said the president might sign a bill pending in Congress that would allow states to reject same-sex marriages performed in other states.

But press secretary Mike McCurry's firm statement Wednesday that Clinton would sign the bill prompted the Human Rights Campaign to withdraw its invitation for White House adviser George Stephanopoulos to speak at a dinner in San Francisco on June 15. He already had accepted the invitation.

"This is a time to fortify the community," Russ Roeca, co-chairman of the event, said in a statement. "We need voices of strength and hope, and at the moment, George Stephanopoulos is neither."

Stephanopoulos did not return a call seeking comment.

Religious conservatives lobbying for the measure responded that they are pleased Clinton will sign the bill but said it doesn't make up for his support of other gay issues.

"I must admit that I'm suspicious that his statement today is merely part of the now well-publicized effort to look like a conservative candidate for president," said Gary Bauer, president of the conservative Family Research Council.

The head of the Human Rights Campaign agreed that it was a tactical move.

"The signing of the bill is a capitulation to political religious extremist organizations," said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the group that lobbies on gay and lesbian issues. "We are saddened and very disappointed that the president needed to deal with this in a politically expedient manner."