Support for gay rights, most often associated with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, moved into bipartisan territory this election cycle. The Human Rights Campaign Fund, the country's largest gay and lesbian lobby, has given a record $73,500 to GOP House and Senate candidates and plans to contribute $11,000 more by the election. That means Republicans got almost 20 percent of the fund's contributions.

The fund gave the legal limit -- $10,000 -- to three GOP candidates in close races: Rep. Ronald K. Machtley (R.I.), Trudy Coxe, who is running for an open seat in Rhode Island, and Rep. John Miller (Wash.).

"Republicans are vote-counting," said Eric Rosenthal, the fund's political director. "They are beginning to realize there are gays and lesbians and people concerned about civil rights and AIDS-related issues in their districts." He called the growth in support "terrific" and said it is reflected in "our legislative successes on Capitol Hill."

Rosenthal said President Bush, "unlike his predecessor, has sent a good signal" on gay-related issues. He also said there has been a shift among some GOP senators, noting that Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) has led a number of fights for gay-related causes. "Republicans realize it's all right, that there is a political benefit to be with these issues," Rosenthal said.

He said the fund is on the "calling list" of the GOP campaign committees -- and that he had just received a call requesting contributions for seven Republican senators in close races, including Jesse Helms (N.C). Helms, the fund's top target for defeat, Rosenthal said, will not get a donation.

By the election, the fund will have given nearly $500,000 to about two dozen Republican and more than 100 Democratic candidates, Rosenthal said.