When he was about to run for President the first time around, Bush confided to a friend that he was under pressure from James Dobson and other rightwing evangelicals to go after gays and lesbians.
Bush assured his friend: “I’m not going to kick gays.”
But that was then.
And this is now.
And now the Republicans have nothing else to run on, so Bush is kicking away.
In his radio address last Saturday and in his speech on Monday, Bush threw his support behind a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
“Marriage,” he insisted on Saturday, “cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious, and natural roots.”
But it’s not up to the government to defend marriage as a religious institution. That’s up to the church or the mosque or the synagogue.
It is up to the government, however, to see that we don’t have second-class citizens in this country and that we don’t discriminate against people because of who they are.
And that’s just what this amendment would do.
We’ve never amended the Constitution to deny rights to a specific group of people. There’s no reason to start now.
On Monday, Bush said the constitutional amendment “will leave state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage.”
But that’s not the case. “The proposed amendment goes beyond defining marriage and could deny gay families fundamental protections such as hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and health care benefits,” the Human Rights Campaign says.
Bush also said that gay marriage would undermine families.
But how would letting two lesbians get married who have been together twenty years undermine anybody’s family?
How would letting two gay men who fell in love last year undermine anybody’s family?
What is undermining the family is poverty, infidelity, and wife-beating, none of which has anything to do with same-sex marriage.
But Bush was playing to his far right evangelical base. Joining him by his own invitation for his talk were such rightwing evangelical bigwigs as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and James Dobson himself (who even got an interview with Press Secretary Tony Snow afterwards).
Bush’s rhetorical strategy was clear. Make the enemy “activist judges.”
In his ten-minute speech on Monday, he used the term “activist judges” three times, “over-reaching judges” once, “activist courts” once, and judges or courts at least five other times. He does not respect the right of the federal judicial branch to uphold the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the right of state courts to respect the equality and anti-discrimination guarantees of their own state constitutions.
Bush ended both his Saturday radio address and his Monday speech with a call for “tolerance, respect, and dignity.”
But by backing the ban on gay marriage, he’s fomenting intolerance, he’s legislating disrespect, and he’s trying to strip millions of Americans of their dignity.