Bush Backs Away From Gay Marriage Ban
[WASHINGTON, DC] - On Wednesday, President George W. Bush tiptoed into the gay marriage debate with a noncommittal comment about a proposed constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
"I don't know if it's necessary yet," Bush told a group of reporters after being asked about the possible amendment. "Let's let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing. What I do support is a notion that marriage is between a man and a woman."
The remarks came days after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., endorsed the amendment, which drew condemnation from gay groups of both parties. (The proposed amendment was introduced in May in the House by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo.)
Patrick Guerriero, director of the Log Cabin Republicans, suggested that Bush's remarks were meant to soothe conservatives who are upset over last week's landmark Supreme Court ruling that boosted momentum for GLBT rights on a number of fronts, including same-sex marriage.
"I think what you're seeing is a momentary time-out from the radical right's temper tantrum," Guerriero told the Associated Press.
"(Bush) is trying hard not to take a position and at the same time not antagonize the hard core anti-gay social conservatives," said David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest GLBT rights group. "We are pleased that he has not taken a position and hope to make our case to the administration as to why they should oppose this draconian effort."
Political observers believe same-sex marriage will become a big issue in the 2004 presidential elections, especially with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn sodomy laws and Canada's recent decision to permit gay marriage. In addition, former Gov. Howard Dean, one of the early leaders in the Democratic pool of candidates, signed Vermont's civil unions into law and advocates for marriage-like rights for gay couples.
Passage of a constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states.
A federal law already defines marriage for purposes of all federal rights and programs. The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 and defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.