July 16, 2004
The know-nothings have lost, not only the current battle, but probably the entire war over gay marriage.
The vote in the Senate to deep-six the anti-gay-marriage amendment was more lopsided than rightwing Republicans expected. Far from getting anywhere near the two thirds necessary, the Republican leadership couldn't even muster a majority on a procedural vote, and it reportedly would have fared worse on the substance.
The fact of the matter is, the American public don't want to go monkey with the Constitution to placate the Bible-thumpers and the crass opportunists who play to them.
Over the last thirty-five years, a dramatic shift has taken place in this country, a shift toward acceptance of gays and lesbians as equal citizens. And while most Americans still cling to the storybook fable of marriage being between a man and a woman, there is no secular basis for prohibiting same-sex marriages.
To enshrine discrimination in the Constitution is the last thing we need, and fortunately, most Americans have come around to this view.
Not Bush, however.
The vote in the Senate was still echoing off the walls when he said he was "disappointed" but added that the gay marriage ban was only "temporarily blocked" in the Senate and urged its passing in the House. And once again, he blamed "activist judges."
"It is important for our country to continue the debate on this important issue," Bush said. Leaving aside the fact that he could not come up with another adjective, why is it "important" for the country to debate this issue, when there are so many more pressing ones, like Al Qaeda, the Iraq War, the economy, and health care?
But Bush and his political Svengali Karl Rove believe that they are going to win in November by catering to the red meat conservatives.
And those social conservatives were sounding (surprise, surprise!) just like Bush.
"The Senate's vote today has left the future of marriage in the hands of unelected judges, at least for the time being," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "The fight has just begun."
It's a losing fight for Bush, though.
This amendment will never pass, and the more Bush pushes for it, the more he alienates independents and moderate Republicans (note Senator McCain's blistering criticism).
That doesn't mean that the Rick Santorums of the Senate won't keep braying about the imminent demise of the family.
And it doesn't mean that conservative religious leaders won't keep threatening to sic their flock on any Senator who doesn't go along with their biblical hurlings.
And it doesn't mean that Bush and Rove won't keep kowtowing to this crowd.
But it does mean that this crowd is thinning.
Amid all the gloom, that is a big ray of hope.