Press

President Bush Continues War on Gay America

Date: 
July 11, 2004

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

His calls for 'civility' and 'respect' don't hide plain old homophobia

Background: At a campaign stop in Pennsylvania on Friday, July 9 and in his weekly radio address yesterday, President Bush again called upon Congress to pass the "Federal Marriage Amendment." The measure will be debated and voted upon by the U.S. Senate during the coming week. All sides expect the measure - which requires 67 votes to pass - to be defeated. At the campaign stop the President said, "people need to take a deep breath and debate with the ultimate of respect," and in his radio address he added, "(a)ll of us have a duty to conduct this discussion with civility and decency toward one another." At the campaign stop he also said, "And I repeat to you -- my own view is, is that if a state -- if people decide to -- what they do in the privacy of their house, consenting adults should be able to do. This is America. It's a free society. But it doesn't mean we have to redefine traditional marriage."
(Transcripts appear at the end of this release)

Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

"Everyone acknowledges that the "Federal Marriage Amendment" does not have the votes to pass the U.S. Senate this week. Many others have pointed out that the only and obvious explanation for the President's push and the Senate vote - besides the GOP again bowing to the right wing fanatics who are now such an important part of its base - is to distract the nation from other seemingly more important national issues - like Iraq, jobs, health care, and terror - in the days leading up to the Democratic National Convention. Is using the fundamental rights of a minority for political gain deplorable? You bet. Is anyone surprised? Of course not.

A couple of issues seem to be missing in all of this. The first is the utter disingenuousness of the President's call that the debate around marriage equality for gay people be conducted with "civility and decency" and the "ultimate of respect. The President admits "that opinions are strong and emotions run deep." The facts are that even though our families and fundamental rights are at stake, gay people are not the ones using disgusting and hateful rhetoric in this debate. Rather, it is the President's close buddies on the religious right - Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Traditional Values Coalition and their ilk -- who have been doing that for months on end. They all claim that extending equal marriage rights to gay people will doom western civilization, overturn bans on polygamy and bestiality, and, in the words of the $125 million behemoth Focus on the Family, result in families with 'higher levels of poverty, welfare dependency, child abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, premature and promiscuous sexuality, early unwed pregnancy, educational failure, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality and suicide as well as lower levels of physical and emotional health." Tonight, many of these organizations are sponsoring a satellite simulcast to several hundred churches titled "The Battle for Marriage." During their last simulcast on May 23, viewers were told that if the "battle for marriage is lost & your grandchildren will grow up hearing the call to prayer from minarets."

The President and most candidates for office seem oblivious to the fact that there's no way for him to say gay people should not be afforded equal marriage rights without also meaning that gay people and our relationships are inherently inferior, subhuman. Yet, he asks that we discuss this civilly and with respect. And we do.

Finally, while we talk about rights, responsibilities, love and commitment, the other side is literally fixated on gay sex. On Friday, the President said it was OK with him for "consenting adults" to decide what they want to do in the privacy of their own homes, "but it doesn't mean we have to redefine traditional marriage." Mr. President, we all know that sex is involved whenever the term "consenting adults" comes up. But what does that have to do with marriage equality? Gay people aren't seeking equal marriage rights because we want to have sex (news flash: we've been doing that for a long time). Instead, we want them for all of the reasons straight people do. After all, we're human beings too. Whoops, I forgot that our opponents don't actually believe that."

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Statements from President Bush July 9 and July 10, 2004
Campaign Stop in Kutztow, PA (Friday, July 9, 2004)

An attendee at the "Ask President Bush" event inquired, "I was wondering what your plans are for banning gay marriage in the 50 states?"

Bush replied: "Yes. He asked about gay marriage. This is, first of all, a very sensitive issue, that people need to take a deep breath and debate with the ultimate of respect, for starters. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe that marriage is a -- I believe marriage an important part of the future of families, the traditional definition of marriage. I think it's -- history has shown us that marriage between men and women has served society well, and any redefinition by itself will weaken marriage."

He continued: "Secondly, this is a subject which ought not be decided by courts. This is a decision which ought to be decided -- this is too important a decision to have defined by four judges in a state, say, like Massachusetts. And therefore, I believe the people ought to be encouraged to participate in the process.

"Thirdly, one of the interesting issues that we're confronted with here in the country is that if a state decides to redefine marriage, people who are then married in that state can come to a state like Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania must accept that marriage. Now, that is right now protected, what's called the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton. But there's a lot of legal experts who tell me that that act is going to be struck down in the court of law, which would then mean that a court could decide, redefine marriage -- a court -- the people would get married, and they'd come to another state and say, you must accept me -- us as a married couple, which then redefines the marriage in the new state.

"Now, this is a sensitive issue that the people ought to decide," Bush said, "and the best way they ought to decide, in my judgment, is to be -- is to have a constitutional process go forward that must be ratified by the state legislatures. That's how you get the people involved. And I repeat to you -- my own view is, is that if a state -- if people decide to -- what they do in the privacy of their house, consenting adults should be able to do. This is America. It's a free society. But it doesn't mean we have to redefine traditional marriage."

President's Radio Address, July 10, 2004

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. The United States Senate this past week began an important discussion about the meaning of marriage. Senators are considering a constitutional amendment to protect the most fundamental institution of civilization, and to prevent it from being fundamentally redefined.

This difficult debate was forced upon our country by a few activist judges and local officials, who have taken it on themselves to change the meaning of marriage. In Massachusetts, four judges on the state's highest court have ordered the issuance of marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender. In San Francisco, city officials issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender, contrary to the California family code. Lawsuits in several states, including New Jersey, Florida, Nebraska, and Oregon, are also attempting to overturn the traditional definition of marriage by court order.

In 1996, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act, and President Clinton signed it into law. That legislation defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as a union between a man and a woman, and declares that no state is required to accept another state's definition of marriage. Yet an activist court that strikes down traditional marriage would have little problem striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. Overreaching judges could declare that all marriages recognized in Massachusetts or San Francisco be recognized as marriages everywhere else.

When judges insist on imposing their arbitrary will on the people, the only alternative left to the people is an amendment to the Constitution -- the only law a court cannot overturn. A constitutional amendment should never be undertaken lightly -- yet to defend marriage, our nation has no other choice.

A great deal is at stake in this matter. The union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring and important human institution, and the law can teach respect or disrespect for that institution. If our laws teach that marriage is the sacred commitment of a man and a woman, the basis of an orderly society, and the defining promise of a life, that strengthens the institution of marriage. If courts create their own arbitrary definition of marriage as a mere legal contract, and cut marriage off from its cultural, religious and natural roots, then the meaning of marriage is lost, and the institution is weakened. The Massachusetts court, for example, has called marriage "an evolving paradigm." That sends a message to the next generation that marriage has no enduring meaning, and that ages of moral teaching and human experience have nothing to teach us about this institution.

For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that traditional marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, traditional marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of traditional marriage will undermine the family structure.

On an issue of this great significance, opinions are strong and emotions run deep. All of us have a duty to conduct this discussion with civility and decency toward one another. All people deserve to have their voices heard. And that is exactly the purpose behind the constitutional amendment process. American democracy, not court orders, should decide the future of marriage in America.

The process has now begun in the Congress. I urge members of the House and Senate to pass, and send to the states for ratification, an amendment that defines marriage in the United States as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife.

Thank you for listening.

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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.