Press

Bush’s Support of the Federal Marriage Amendment Deemed a Declaration of War on Gay America

Date: 
December 16, 2003

Crossing this line in the sand will provoke civil disobedience across country, says National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

December 16, 2003 - President Bush told Diane Sawyer in an interview that aired last evening that he would support a Constitutional amendment (known as the Federal Marriage Amendment or "FMA") that would deny the right to marry to same-sex couples and restrict the recognition of relationships outside of marriage, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that, and will - the position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state or [?] start at the state level. Let me tell you, the (Massachusetts) court I thought overreached its bounds as a court. It did the job of the legislature. It was a very activist court in making the decision it made. As you know, I'm a person who believes in judicial restraint, as opposed to judicial activism that takes the place of the Legislative Branch." [see remainder of transcript below]

RESPONSE BY NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MATT FOREMAN: "No set of circumstances can justify the support of the President of the United States for amending the Constitution to endorse discrimination against a group of Americans. We cannot and will not be silent in the face of even considering enshrining our second class citizenship in this nation's most sacred document. We consider this a declaration of war on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender America. The President is clearly using our lives and families to pander to the political and religious extremists that comprise his base. We did not ask for this fight, but if the President wants one, he will have one. And that fight will involve civil disobedience across this country."

Call To Action: Call To Action: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force calls on its members to CALL THE WHITE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY expressing your opposition to the Bush Administration bringing forth and supporting the blatantly discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment. Phone calls are the most effective way to have your voice heard.

Proposed statement: Marriage rights for same-sex couples are no longer an abstract hypothetical. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples -- U. S. Citizens -- have married in Canada, and they ARE married. Gay and lesbian couples will soon be married in the state of Massachusetts. This Administration can choose to treat them with respect, dignity and fairness, or they can discriminate against them. I strongly urge the President to reject the Federal Marriage Amendment. It represents the divisive and discriminatory politics of the past. I vehemently urge the President to reject this political attack on gay and lesbian families."

White House Contact info:

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
TTY/TDD Comments: 202-456-6213

Direct Acts of Civil Disobedience:

Any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other fair-minded people willing to engage in direct acts of civil disobedience are urged to e-mail their contact information to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at ngltf@ngltf.org in order to be included in planning actions across the country.

BACKGROUND:

The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) would amend the U.S. Constitution to permanently define marriage in this country as being between one man and one woman. It would also prohibit any court in the nation from interpreting any law to extend any of the more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities associated with marriage to unmarried individuals. Introduced by Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado) on May 21, 2003, the FMA would additionally undercut more limited forms of partner recognition (the FMA has the endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist). The amendment reads: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state under state or federal law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." To be added to the Constitution, the proposal must be approved by two-thirds of the House and the Senate and ratified by three-fourths of the states.

If the FMA passes, it would be the first time that the constitution has been amended to specifically deny rights and protections to a specific group of people (same-sex couples), while still allowing those same rights (civil marriage) for heterosexual couples.

In the last few months we've seen a proliferation of LGBT issues in law and on television, including high court rulings in Massachusetts, Ontario and British Columbia legalizing equal marriage for same-sex couples and the United States Supreme Court's decriminalization of all sodomy laws in the Lawrence v. Texas case, now anti-gay organizers have made denying equal rights for LGBT people their number one cause. This backlash, led by anti-gay extremists (who raise most of their money by demonizing and dehumanizing gay people) has only just begun.

Partial Transcript of ABC News Primetime Interview with President George W. Bush

DIANE SAWYER: Massachusetts Supreme Court said that they were not, they did not feel the law was in a position to block gay marriage. When you talk about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, are you saying you will absolutely support a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage and against gay civil unions?

PRESIDENT BUSH: If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that, and will - the position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state or [?] start at the state level. Let me tell you, the court I thought overreached its bounds as a court. It did the job of the legislature. It was a very activist court in making the decision it made. As you know, I'm a person who believes in judicial restraint, as opposed to judicial activism that takes the place of the Legislative Branch.

DIANE SAWYER: But you and Secretary - why do I get -

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's just a throwback.

DIANE SAWYER: That's right. Some of us are still -

PRESIDENT BUSH: Vice President Cheney.

DIANE SAWYER: Thank you very much. Some of us are still stuck back in the '70s and '80s. Vice President Cheney has spoken out in favor of civil unions. In the 2000 election, you said pretty much it was a state issue.

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's right. Except and unless judicial rulings undermine the sanctity of marriage. In which case, we may need a Constitutional amendment.

DIANE SAWYER: And do you think that the defense of marriage law is enough then?

PRESIDENT BUSH: It may be undermined at this point. I also think it's very important, on this subject, that the country be tolerant of people and understand people, but tolerance and belief in marriage aren't mutually exclusive points of view.

DIANE SAWYER: Are they sinners? Are gays sinners?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We're all sinners. We're all sinners, and that's important for -

DIANE SAWYER: No distinction.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think we're all sinners. One of my favorite Bible verses says, "Why would I take a speck out of your eye when I have a log in my own?" ... and having said that, however, I do believe in the sanctity of marriage. ... but I don't see that as conflict with being a tolerant person or an understanding person. ...

Additionally, Bush made the following comments on this issue in a July 30, 2003 Rose Garden press conference. From the White House press release:

Question: 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.

RESOURCES:

For more information see the Task Force reports available in the Task Force publications library online at http://www.ngltf.org/library:

'Marriage Protection Week' Sponsors: Are They Really Interested in 'Building Strong and Healthy Marriages?'

Know Thy Enemy: Quotes About the Sodomy Ruling and the Same-Sex Marriage Backlash

President George W. Bush on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues

Family Policy: Issues Affecting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Families

For more information on the equal marriage fight and the Federal Marriage Amendment, see the Task Force press releases available on the Task Force Web site home page, accessible by either logging on to http://www.ngltf.org or by pasting the links below into your browser.

http://www.ngltf.org/press/releases/pr578_090803

http://www.ngltf.org/press/releases/pr566_073003

http://www.ngltf.org/press/releases/pr565_073003

http://www.ngltf.org/press/releases/pr584_100603

http://www.ngltf.org/press/releases/pr587_101703

http://www.ngltf.org/press/releases/pr600_111803

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.