From the most recent of President Bush’s extremely rare press conferences -
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, many of your supporters believe that homosexuality is immoral. They believe that it's been given too much acceptance in policy terms and culturally. As someone who's spoken out in strongly moral terms, what's your view on homosexuality?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor's eye when they got a log in their own. I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country. On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is heading here in Washington, and that is the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.
Now, it’s hard to really even know where to start here. Just rhetorically, it’s rather frightening. That metaphor, and his choice of diction, with the emphasis on religious terminology. “Sinners?” “Sanctity?” Would it have been acceptable if he had just used the simpler “holy?”
Of course, there is an actual difference between the legal instution that is marriage, with its legal rights and responsibilities the contract entails, and the religious instiutions of marriage that are outside of our government. I suppose it’s too much to hope at least the President wouldn’t confuse the issue with religious language.
But enough with the nitpicking that the President of a supposedly secular nation is concerned about holiness. What really bothers me is “I think we ought to codify that one way or the other.”
The Defense of Marriage Act, regrettably signed in 1996 by Clinton, defined that for purposes of the federal government that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. Moreover, it gave states the right to refuse to recognize any same-sex marriages performed in other states. (Normally, states are forced to recognize marriages performed in other states, regardless of whether it was performed by an Elvis impersonator, like in Nevada, or if the girl is 16, like in Georgia.)
The point is, that law was passed in 1996 because Hawaii’s Supreme Court was poised to declare a same sex marriage legal. Eventually, there was a state constitutional amendment prohobiting it. Other than Vermont which allows for civil unions, most states in fact have legislation preventing same sex marriages and denying homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals. [CNN on the state of the laws in 2000 on Bush’s statement]
Regardless of one’s feeling on the issue, it’s hard to actually consider the the view that we should “codify” the definition of marriage at the federal level to exclude same sex unions as a valid viewpoint. Since it’s already happened, it’s mostly just stating one’s ignorance of the current laws. Maybe those lawyers looking into it just failed to mention it to him. I mean, they could have paid me some tax dollars and I would’ve told them. But I never went to law school.
My real point is, this sort of statement would be disturbing in other contexts, but compounded by the fact that there is essentially no actual legal “threat” to the supposed “sanctity” of marriage, and there are already laws on the books that support his views, it seems even more heinous.
Ian comments: “But as long as Bush is doing these great things for our economy, I think he should be allowed to do whatever he wants.”
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