Tuesday, February 24, 2004


According to CNN, President Bush has come out in support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Up until now, despite all the polls and all the scuttlebutt about Bush being vulnerable in November, I never really believed that he was going to lose...mostly because I'm cynical. This presidency, as many of you out there will agree, has been beyond our worst nightmares and as much as we wish we could wave a wand and make Bush disappear, but he's proven to be supririsingly tenacious and able to get the American public to side with his most of his policies, no matter how contentious or misguided the rest of of us find them.

Finally, I'm starting to change my mind. By supporting this Amendment, Bush is revealing his own vulnerability and desperation. I don't doubt, in my mind, that on a moral level, Bush believes that he's doing the right thing but no one as politically coached as Bush is would ever come to this kind of public decision without ulterior gain in mind. This is, simple, naked and plain, an attempt at forcing an election-year issue that can drive a wedge between himself and his Democratic opponents.

It may yet work. The majority of Americans do not support gay marriage and it's safe to assume that a large number of them would be all in favor of an amendment. Whether or not the amendment would ever pass (keep reading below) is almost besides the point: if the Republican machine can whip the public into a paranoid frenzy around gay marriage and use it to club the Democrats with, Bush may have made a very shrewd (albeit reprehensible) political move. The Demos have already come out blasting Bush's plan, which likely plays into the President's gambit but at least they're doing the right thing. We hope.

This could, however, seriously backfire on Bush. It is very hard, in this day and age, to campaign on such a blatant show of intolerance even with presumed, populist support. Moreover, let's face it: Constitutional amendments are no easy sell. This country, in the 1970s, failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, a far, far less radical proposition (hey, men and women are equal!) than what is being floated out now. With the exception of Prohibition (and we saw how well that went), most amendments don't limit rights, they create them. Even though most of the major Democratic candidates do not support gay marriage, they also do not support a ban on it, preferring to leave it up to the states to decide (it's a bullshit, cop-out move - "states rights" gets trotted out anytime a federal politician wants to take a pass on making a stand). It is highly unlikely this Amendment will make it out of Congress UNLESS the Republicans are able to wield it in such a way as to force scared Democrats to vote their way in order to save future Congressional seats.

Even then, it's also questionable whether people in the states would actually ratify this. Despite the opposition to gay marriage, I would hope and I have some faith in the idea that many Americans would realize that taking a step to ban gay marriage, at the Constitutional level, is one step too far. Like I said, I could be wrong about that, but I still have some faith in my fellow citizens.

The only good thing I see out of this right now though is that it's a sign that Bush is panicked and ready to do whatever he needs to do get people's minds off of Iraq and the non-existent WMD, off of the economy and its shortcomings for working people, off of Bush's fumbling of international relations, off of his sketchy military record during the Vietnam War, off of the deficit, etc. etc. He thinks gay marriage is his trump card but he's playing it now because he knows he's vulnerable. At last - something good out of an otherwise bad day.