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Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.


George Bush and the Federal Marriage Amendment Feedback  | e-mail post

I have had several friends e-mail or telephone me with their thoughts on "Why George Bush's Call for a Federal Marriage Amendment is in the Best Interest of Gay Americans", all three of whom are more or less (OK, completely) opposed to Republicans and Republicanism. The crux of their responses have been something along the lines of this portion of a response, quoted from a friend of mine out in Los Angeles:
[W]hile I think you make an elegantly-reasoned elaboration of the way that such an amendment might (regardless of its success) cause a state-by-state debate of the issue when sent to them for ratification, I think it's a stretch to assume that this was Bush's rationale for backing it. We're both aware of his religious convictions, and to assume that they don't drive his actions on this subject seems short-sighted, despite his claim to the contrary. The majority of your piece is written from an imaginary first-person perspective of Bush considering his options, and while the thinking is clearly rationalized, there is little evidence to suggest that it was in fact Bush's reasoning.
Another friend said that he felt it was difficult to even presume that as much thought went into the process; I won't take issue with that position, because it seems you either want to believe George Bush is simple or you don't.

However, I will certainly agree that it is difficult to make guesses as to any individual's motivations without speaking directly with them. It might be worth mentioning that I didn't actually start out with the thesis that I ended up writing. Rather, I came to that conclusion when I started seeing the timing and content of Bush's public statements in relation the goings-on in various states.

In addition, I agree that Bush believes (again, as do 60%+ of Americans) that the term "marriage" should be reserved for opposite-sex dyadic unions. However, I also believe that he supports the extension of equivalent legal structures to those unions.

As just one example of Bush's gay-neutral attitude, it is worth pointing out that while Bush/Cheney has employed Cheney's lesbian daughter in spite of objections from their base, Kerry only hired gay campaign staffers to help quell the concerns of the gay lobby, as this piece from the Boston Globe mentions:
Gay-rights leaders say the Kerry campaign has contained outcry over his stand on gay marriage with a series of moves. They include hiring a top deputy who is gay as well as gay staff members and advisers, pledging to continue to support gay-rights issues as president, and making the case that Bush is strongly opposed to their political causes.
Or consider that George Bush asked gay Congressman Jim Kolbe to speak at the 2000 Republican convention, in a prime-time slot. Kolbe also was the individual responsible for getting language into the 2002 D.C. Appropriations (passed in late '01) bill that ended a decade-long ban on extending health benefits to D.C. domestic partners, and while there was some opposition by lawmakers in both the House and Senate, the Republican House pushed it through, even voting down an amendment to re-insert the ban.

Another example worth pointing out is that in June of 2002, Bush signed a bill extending federal death benefits to the domestic partners of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty - the first ever extension of a federal death benefit to same-sex couples. This was over the objection of his own Justice department. [Wash Post] As the a reporter noted, "Gay activists said that although the Bush administration has been surprisingly non-hostile to their issues, it also has avoided provoking conservatives by appearing too accommodating."

Or Bush's rebuke of his own appointee earlier this year for removing language from the Office of Special Counsel website about federal employee protection of gays and lesbians. And on the appointee front in general, Bush's record is nothing to criticize. In fact, while both he and Clinton each appointed a gay ambassador, Clinton's pick, James Hormel, was a long-time Democratic party loyalist (and big contributor, as an hier to Hormel - you know, the Spam guys) that Clinton had to get in through a recess appointment due to Jesse Helms' opposition, Bush put up an openly gay career foreign service officer and got him a formal Senate confirmation.

George Bush has always had to walk a tightrope on the issue, simply because a significant part of his base holds strong beliefs in this regard, and unlike the approach that gays seem to take with John Kerry, he cannot be assured that he will be strongly supported by his base if he so publicly shows disregard for their interests.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Monday, October 18, 2004
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