Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bush Pushes Constitutional Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage

Lots of trenchant commentary on Bush's last-ditch attempt to grovel himself back into good standing with the far-right Christian fundamentalist coven.

Judd at Think Progress points out that GWB's twisted definition of democracy hangs on a rejection of tripartite government:

President Bush used his radio address this weekend to lend his support to the Marriage Protection Amendment, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This paragraph stuck out:

A constitutional amendment will put a decision that is critical to American families and American society in the hands of the American people, which is exactly where it belongs. Democracy, not court orders, should decide the future of marriage in America.

This statement is endemic of a larger problem in the Bush administration -- the failure to recognize the judiciary as a co-equal branch of American democracy. Courts are tasked with enforcing laws that are the will of the people, as expressed through the legislative and executive branches.

President Bush has every right to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But, in doing so, he is no more a supporter of democracy than those who would leave this question up to the states.

Steve Benen suggests here, and here, that the president's political radar is malfunctioning. In a guest post at The Washington Monthly, Steve writes that Bush is hitching his wagon to a falling star:

Putting aside the merit of the amendment (or lack thereof), there's little strategic upside to the president's new-found interest in the anti-gay amendment.

If you're Bush, and your agenda isn't exactly sweeping through the Hill, why intentionally tie yourself to a measure that's going to fail? The amendment isn't going to pass; it won't even be close. But instead of a predictable, pro-forma defeat for the far-right on the Senate floor, the president will connect himself to a sinking ship on purpose. The post-vote spin will now be, "Bush suffers another defeat on the Hill; lawmakers reject president's demands on amendment."

Maybe the religious right will give Bush credit for trying? It's unlikely. Dobson, Falwell, Robertson & Co. have asked the White House to take this amendment seriously for months. For the president to speak out, literally at the 11th hour, will probably be seen as too-little, too-late.

The "too little" part means that the text of the amendment is not hateful enough for people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and their minions.

Just to follow up on an item from yesterday, I suggested that the religious right would not be terribly impressed with the president speaking out in support of the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment at the last minute. Given the reactions yesterday from some leading activists, I think I understated the case.

"I'm going to go and hear what he says, but we already know it is a ruse," said Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network, which opposes gay marriage. "We're not buying it. We're going to go and watch the dog-and-pony show, [but] it's too little, too late."

Of particular interest in the LA Times report, however, was not just displeasure with the Bush White House from the GOP base, but an under-reported division among conservatives over the anti-gay constitutional amendment itself. To be sure, most conservatives love it, but some far-right heavy-hitters are balking -- because it's not harsh enough.

At least two prominent social conservative groups -- Concerned Women for America and the Traditional Values Coalition -- believe the language contains a loophole that would allow gays to seek civil unions. [...]

Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, and others say the second sentence leaves open the option that gays and lesbians could enter unions other than marriage; and that's a deal breaker for them.

On its website, the Concerned Women for America says it "does not support the Marriage Protection Amendment as currently worded because the second sentence is open to differing interpretations."

The proposed amendment reads: "Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

Apparently, under some conservatives' reading of the wording, some states might still be able to recognize gay relationships in some legal way. That, in and of itself, is so troubling that they're withholding their support for the amendment.

History is not likely to judge a constitutional ban on gay marriage any more kindly than today's religious right is likely to judge it (as currently worded) -- but for a different reason [emphasis mine]:

Faced with disastrously low approval ratings, President Bush seems to have resigned himself to the hope that future generations will judge him more kindly than his contemporaries. I don't think this is a particularly realistic hope, but you can't blame a guy for trying to find a silver lining to an otherwise soul-crushing set of circumstances. Bush's most loyal apologists, and lately Bush himself, have taken to invoking the example of Harry Truman, a man who endured similarly dismal approval ratings toward the end of his presidency, but whose historical legacy has steadily improved since then. ...
... I understand why this is a pleasing analogy for Bush. Presidents want to be judged kindly by history. This is especially true when they stand little chance of being judged kindly in the present. But here's my question: if Bush is hoping that his validation will come from future generations, why on earth is he yet again coming out in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment?

The march of history is often unpredictable. One generation's fool can be the next generation's visionary. In many respects, though, the march of history is entirely predictable. We know, for example, that future generations will enjoy technology and gadgetry that far exceeds our current technological know-how. The progress of science and technology is incremental and inexorable.

Similarly, free societies inevitably progress toward greater tolerance and greater equality. Old biases tend to die off with the people who hold them. Does anyone really doubt that gay marriage will be a fact of life in most parts of this country within a generation? In the few years since gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, public opinion has already shifted considerably. Polls consistently show that most younger Americas have no problem with allowing gay couples to marry. So the writing is clearly on the wall. Future generations will almost surely view the Marriage Protection Amendment (and its state counterparts) in the same light that we now view anti-miscegenation laws. Indeed, I suspect even most social conservatives realize this, which is why they are frantically trying to take advantage of popular opinion while it is still on their side.

I always marvel at this phenomenon. Why is it that each generation of social conservatives thinks that it will be the one to stop history's march? They never seem to realize the power or inevitability of the processes they're opposing.

Loving v. Virginia was the case in which the Supreme Court overturned the state of Virginia's law forbidding interracial marriages -- thereby invalidating anti-miscegenation laws in all the states where they existed. Before that ruling, many, if not most, white Americans believed that intimate relationships between blacks and whites were unnatural -- a violation of God's law. In other words, interracial marriages or relationships were considered in exactly the same light that same-sex marriages or relationships are considered now. Eschaton passes on the "obvious question, which no reporter will dare ask," from Daily Kos's Georgia10 (unlinked): Does Pres. Bush think that Loving v. Virginia should be overturned?

1 comment:

Travis said...

This was clealy NEVER a policy which anyone expected (or feared) would win.

When this policy first failed, it came at the benefit of GOPS.

That is no longer the reality, voters have woken up to reality of how their lives are affected by taxes, war, etc.....

In which now leaves ONE intention....


This remains a BIG question......

If Howard Dean is WISE, he will schedule the DEM primary LATE, LATE in the electoral season.