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The New York Times
Bush Pushes Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage
By JIM RUTENBERG
Published: June 2, 2006
WASHINGTON, June 2 — President Bush is beginning a major push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage — part of a new campaign to reassure cultural conservatives who say he and his party abandoned them after the 2004 elections.
Mr. Bush is to declare strong support for the amendment — scheduled for a vote in the Senate next week — in his radio address on Saturday, and at an event at the White House Monday with conservative activists, White House officials said today.
Taken together, the events will mark the first time Mr. Bush has so aggressively promoted his opposition to gay marriage since his re-election campaign. Democrats immediately accused the White House of trotting out a reliable hot-button issue as part of a calculated bid to help fellow Republicans with disgruntled conservative voters this election season.
But, in a new twist this year, some conservative activists expressed similar cynicism, saying Mr. Bush and the Republicans had a long way to go to convince cultural conservatives that they are serious after running on issues like gay marriage in 2004, only to pursue overhauls of social security and immigration laws after Election Day.
"It was so central in the 2004 election," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said of the gay marriage issue. "And the day after, the president began a crusade to reform Social Security and it went nowhere — why not put energy into something that's vital for our society and our country?"
Mr. Perkins, who is expected to attend the Monday event at the White House, complained that as Washington's attention has been focused elsewhere, judges in several states have struck down state laws and statutes banning gay marriage, most recently in Georgia and Nebraska.
Furthering the disconnection between Washington Republicans and their so-called values voters, Christian radio and Internet blogs have been on fire with discussion of moves by "activist judges" to "destroy the institution of marriage" as the immigration debate and developments in Iraq have dominated the mainstream news media here.
Conservatives have expressed still more alarm as Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter, who is a lesbian, went on national television promoting her book this year and discussed her distaste for the president's opposition to gay marriage in 2004. Adding to what conservatives describe as the "fuzziness" of the White House's position, the first lady, Laura Bush, said of gay marriage last month, "I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously." Speaking on Fox News Sunday, she added, "It requires a lot of sensitivity just to talk about the issue — a lot of sensitivity."
This week, White House officials have emphasized that whatever the views of those around him, the president's belief that marriage should be between a man and woman has never changed. But they pointed to comments on gay marriage in 2004 as his most comprehensive on the issue.
Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, today batted down suggestions that the president's involvement in the gay marriage debate was politically motivated. Rather, he said, with a number of new court cases and the Senate's move to bring a vote on the constitutional amendment on Tuesday, "The time is ripe."
The vote on the amendment is considered largely symbolic because it is not expected to pass in the Senate, let alone achieve the ratification in two thirds of the states that a constitutional amendment requires. The amendment would not only define marriage as being between a man and a woman, but would also prevent courts from imposing civil unions. Opponents say language of the amendment would prohibit outright legal equivalents of marriage, like civil unions; supporters say it would leave that up to states but take away the right of courts to "impose civil unions" on states that have voted to ban same-sex unions.
Bush backs amendment banning gay marriage
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 2, 10:47 AM ET
President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers.
The amendment would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages. To become law, the proposal would need two-thirds support in the Senate and House, and then be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.
It stands little chance of passing the 100-member Senate, where proponents are struggling to get even 50 votes. Several Republicans oppose the measure, and so far only one Democrat — Sen. Ben Nelson (news, bio, voting record) of Nebraska — says he will vote for it.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the amendment on May 18 along party lines after a shouting match between a Democrat and the chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa. He bid Sen. Russ Feingold (news, bio, voting record), D-Wis., "good riddance" after Feingold declared his opposition to the amendment and his intention to leave the meeting.
Bush aides said he would be making his remarks on the subject Monday.
A slim majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press from March. But the poll also showed attitudes are changing: 63 percent opposed gay marriage in February 2004.
Those poll results don't reflect how people might feel about amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court decided to legalize such marriages in 2003. A year later, San Francisco issued thousands of marriage licenses to gay couples.
This November, initiatives banning same-sex marriages are expected to be on the ballot in Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. In 2004, 13 states approved initiatives prohibiting gay marriage or civil unions, with 11 states casting votes on Election Day.
Bush benefited as religious conservatives turned out to vote and helped him defeat Democratic Sen. John Kerry in 2004. In Ohio, an initiative rejecting the legality of civil unions won handily. The same state tipped the election to Bush.
"The president firmly believes that marriage is an enduring and sacred institution between men and women and has supported measures to protect the sanctity of marriage," White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.
Bush has lost support among conservatives who blame the White House and Congress for runaway government spending, illegal immigration and lack of action on social issues such as the gay marriage amendment.
Opponents of the amendment objected to Bush promoting a measure they said amounts to discrimination.
"This is fundamentally both a civil rights and religious freedom issue and the president's position of supporting amending the constitution is just dead wrong," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "This is simply to give ammunition to the so-called religious right just to show that the president is still with them."
Bush promoting ban on gay marriage
By Matt Spetalnick
Fri Jun 2, 4:53 PM ET
President George W. Bush will promote a constitutional ban on gay marriage on the eve of a Senate vote next week, weighing in on an issue that could rally his wavering conservative base in an election year.
Though the proposed constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage stands little chance of passing, it is one of several hot-button causes Republicans are championing to appeal to right-wing voters ahead of November's congressional ballot.
Bush planned to use his weekly radio address on Saturday and a White House speech on Monday to push for the amendment that would allow states to recognize only marriages between men and women, administration officials said on Friday.
Bush has never made a secret of his views on the issue but has rarely talked about it in public until now.
"He believes the institution of marriage is between a man and a woman," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. "The president's made it clear what he wants. He would like to see the Senate pass the bill."
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the amendment along party lines after a heated session on May 18. Because the measure seeks to change the Constitution, it must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority and then be approved by at least 38 states.
The full Senate will take up the measure on Monday with a vote expected later in the week, but the bill's sponsor, Colorado Republican Wayne Allard, has acknowledged he has far fewer than the 67 votes needed to win passage.
DOWN IN THE POLLS
Bush is raising his profile on the issue at a time when his public approval rating stands at around 30 percent, the low point of his presidency.
Bush used to be able to count on overwhelming support from fellow Republicans and conservatives.
But the Iraq war and a series of political blunders have chipped away at that backing, leaving many Republicans worried about losing control of Congress to the Democrats in November.
Critics say the Republicans are trying to exploit anti-gay prejudice to galvanize their conservative base.
Defending Bush's decision to speak out, Snow denied the president was acting out of "political expedience" and insisted he was taking up the issue because it was "politically ripe."
A similar effort failed in the Senate in 2004. Gay marriage has been a hot topic since a Massachusetts court ruled in 2003 that the state legislature could not ban it, paving the way for America's first same-sex marriages in May the following year.
At least 13 states have passed amendments banning gay marriage while two -- Vermont and Connecticut -- have legalized civil unions.
Just over half of all Americans oppose same-sex marriage, according to a March poll by the Pew Research center, down from 63 percent in February 2004.
(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan)