Press

President Bush's 'Promotion of Marriage' Initiative Called Cynical Election Year Ploy to Exploit the Issue of 'Gay Marriage'

Date: 
January 14, 2004

NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MATT FOREMAN RESPONDS TO BUSH ADMINISTRATION $1.5 BILLION 'MARRIAGE PROPOSAL'

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

Washington D.C., January 14, 2004 - The following is to be attributed to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman:

"The Bush administration's promotion of marriage proposal, reported today, is not about helping couples or promoting marriage. Instead, this is a cynical election-year ploy to exploit the hot-button issue of 'gay marriage' in the African American community. Struggling families do not need $1.5 billion worth of marriage counseling. More importantly, they need jobs, health coverage, and decent schools for their children. Bush has presided over the greatest job loss since Herbert Hoover. They should call this proposal 'A Marriage Counselor in Every Pot.' This is wedge politics at a base and reprehensible level.

The White House has already outlined its plan. During the campaign, the President will present himself to Black churches as a 'compassionate conservative' seeking to 'promote marriage.' Of course, the real message will be fueling the notion that extending equal marriage rights to gay people threatens the institution of marriage and highlighting the president's opposition to that.

It is cruelly ironic that just days after Bush and Cheney endorsed an amendment that would write discrimination into the Constitution and prevent courts from granting the most basic forms of recognition to gay couples -- even things that cost nothing, such as hospital visitation rights -- Bush wants to throw billions to marriage counselors as an alleged solution to problems married couples face. Gay people who want to marry are not a threat to straight couples, and billions for marriage counseling is not the solution to the problems straight couples are experiencing. What struggling families really need are jobs, health coverage and decent schools for their children.

This administration knows that a Democrat cannot win in the fall without overwhelming African American support and turnout, like that enjoyed by Al Gore in 2000, who got 90% of black votes. They also know that surveys show that support for equal marriage rights for gay people is significantly lower in the African American community. Presto! They plan to pit two of the Democratic Party's most solid blocs of support - the African American and gay communities (70% of gay voters backed Gore in 2000) - against each other and wedge off the votes they need to stay in power. They are grand masters at this kind of divisive politics. In past elections they have successfully scapegoated immigrants and poor women, and exploited issues of race and choice. This time around, they are trying to make gay marriage the Willie Horton of the 2004 election cycle.

This is not the first time President Bush has attempted to pit African Americans against gays, as if these are mutually exclusive categories. Last June the Bush Administration sent a memo to Congress portraying local and state gay rights laws as a hindrance to meeting the service needs of 'this country's black and brown urban poor.' The administration urged Congress to allow faith-based service providers to discriminate in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation for jobs paid for with public funds, which it portrayed as essential to preserving the 'civil rights and religious liberty' of these religious groups.*

Pundits who think this proposal will satisfy the President's base on the extreme political and religious right are sadly mistaken. No matter how much rhetorical red meat or how many billions the President sends their way, they will never be satisfied until the President bows and expresses his unequivocal support for the constitutional amendment which would permanently relegate gay and lesbian families and their children to second class status in this country."

Media Reports on Marriage Promotion Plan

The Bush administration is preparing to unveil a $1.5 billion proposal to 'sustain marriage.' Media reports say that this proposal is a result of intense pressure by conservatives seeking to 'defend traditional marriage' which has increased since the recent decision of the Massachusetts supreme judicial court saying that denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional. The ultimate goal of this broad coalition of conservative religious organizations is getting the President to fully support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would deny the right to marry to same-sex couples and prevent courts from recognizing more limited benefits, such as hospital visitation, domestic partnerships and civil unions. (On December 15, 2003, the President said he would support the amendment 'if necessary.')

According to Wade F. Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services, the marriage promotion programs will 'help couples, especially low-income couples, manage conflict in healthy ways.' Mr. Horn said that money for marriage promotion would only be available to heterosexual couples, citing a 1996 federal law that seeks to define and limit marriage to between persons of the opposite sex.

Today's New York Times quotes administration officials saying that during the re-election campaign the President will likely "visit programs trying to raise marriage rates in poor neighborhoods." An anonymous White House source states, "The president loves to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black churches and he's very good at it."

For detailed critical analysis of the forces behind marriage promotion and its rationale, see the December 2001 Task Force report on welfare reform that examines the Marriage Movement and the Fatherhood Movement (founded by Wade Horn, now the architect and key policymaker of Bush's $1.5 billion marriage promotion proposal), state experimentation with marriage promotion, and how these policies hurt gay families, especially lesbian mothers.

If you have Adobe Acrobat, you can download a PDF of Leaving Our Children Behind: Welfare Reform and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community here, or by pasting the following link in your Web browser: http://www.ngltf.org/downloads/WelfRef.pdf

*More details can be found in a report on the Bush-Cheney Administration's records on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues at http://www.TheTaskForce.org/electioncenter

–30–

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.