Reuters says Bush Open on Gay Marriage. I say they are completely missing his point


Exsqueeze me, Reuters, but how do you arrive at the conclusion that Bush is riding any lines at all? The way I read it, he’s clearly and unequivocally against gay marriage, and is not at all subtly stating that he thinks the cure for those “activist” courts ( activism is terrific when it installs him in the White House. Oy vay) is to alter the Constitution.

I think this story was written by a ridiculously optimistic gay man, or a Bush hater hoping to cause him trouble, because I just do not get how he arrives at his conclusions.

I ask the Dope - can Bush’s remarks be understood as * anything other * than a call to amend the constitution to shut the whole question down?

I read it as saying he might support “unions” (eg, civil unions) but not marriage. Note that that is what the article is implying.

Bush has said he’d “support the amendment”, but he isn’t exactly pushing it. I doubt you’ll see that as a part of his campaign platform.

It’s news because IIRC some social conservatives want a constituional amendment that would ban gay civil unions as well as marriage. Bush seems to be saying that civil unions at the state level are not a problem for him.

Re: the OP

Many “moderate” conservatives, Stoid, including Bob Barr who wrote DOMA, are opposed to the Marriage Amendment except perhaps as a last resort. In general, they feel that it (a) is using an A-bomb on a mosquito, (b) can be adequately handled by statute where needed, and/or © is properly the province of the states, not the Federal government, to define what a marriage is for their own jurisdiction. There is also the sense among the “left wing of the right” that even people who want to “protect marriage” feel that civil unions not bearing the title “marriage” may be legitimate if the states wish to permit them.

I see Bush’s remarks as taking the “moderate conservative” stance – something he’s often prone to do on domestic issues.

Re: the Massachusetts Decision

Properly grist for a separate thread, but since your quote addresses it, I feel that no judicial activism was present. In response to a legitimate “case or controversy,” the court examined the Massachusetts state constitution and marriage statutes, and found them to be in disagreement. This is SOP for any court since Marbury v. Madison – whose 200th anniversary has passed earlier this year. Rather than deciding that gay marriages were the law of the land in Massachusetts – which would be judicial activism, they told the legislature, “You’ve got a problem here; your statutes don’t match what the constitution of this state requires. You have six months to fix it so that they do work together properly.” That, to me, is judicial self-restraint, placing the legislating power back in the hands of the legislature while ruling properly on the judicial review of a statute challenged as unconstitutional. (Conservatives may disagree with their reasoning in finding a constitutional conflict, but cannot attack them as activists for how they dealt with it once so finding, IMHO.)

Bob Barr is ‘moderate’?

Anyway…I think you all are making too much of the issue. It’s clear to me that GWB wants no part of the whole issue but feels he has to say something to protect a part of his base going into an election cycle.

A most beautifully crafted political statement: it firmly says everything, and clearly says nothing. It assures the Troglodyte Right that he, is at heart, a Bob Jones kind of man, and it assures the moderate wing, who are prone to spasms of conscience, precisely the opposite.

Note the use of the words “civil union”. Nowhere is it defined precisely what a “civil union” might entail, only that he is not dead set against it. If necessary, he would support a Constitutional Amendment making “marriage” purified, sanctified, and defined. But the definition of “civil union” will be up to the states, even finding some candy for the State’s Rights dinosaurs.

This is why Karl Rove pulls down the big bucks.

I’d quibble a bit with your analysis of the Massachusetts issue only in that the court set a time limit that was logistically too short for the people of that state to enact a constitutional amendment if they chose to do so. Of course that doesn’t prevent the amendment process from going ahead, but there might a time when gay marriage is allowed by law, then cancelled a year later by the constitution. That would be an awkward situation indeed.

One wonders why the court could not allow the legislature to come up with a “civil union” statute, and address the marriage issue at a later date. It’s hard to imagine that, having been thru 225 yrs of not having gay marriage, that we suddenly need to resolve it in 6 months. Maybe that will be the solution, and the court will agree, but it wasn’t obvioius to me.

Bush’s position is rather straightforward, notwithstanding Elucidator’s tortured analysis. He’s saying he’s OK with the states allowing civil unions, the details of which are to be worked out by the states. But don’t call it marriage. As for the Constitutional amendment, he’ll support it if it gets put on the table.

And if Trogloditys want to marry Dinosaurs, that’s a matter for the evolutionary biologists to work out.:slight_smile:

Keep in mind, though, that the president’s position on any Constitutional Amendment is, in a strict sense, beside the point. Other than lobbying from the bully pulpit, the President is out of the loop for the process of amendment ratification. It goes thru Congress and then to the states. The President can’t veto it as he can legislation.

I think the political wing of the republican party is starting to shy away from making gay marriage one of the 2004 election issues. Sure, there are lots of people who are opposed to gay marriage. But is pushing for a ban on gay marriage a good way to get more votes? I think Karl Rove (and his kind) at first hoped it might be, but it is looking more and more like a waste of time. My bold prediction: Bush will stay out of the gay marriage mud wrestle for the 2004 election.

John Mace:

You are of course correct that six months is not adequate time to complete the process of amending the constitution of Massachusetts. However, my understanding of the court’s intent is that it chose not to be a “superlegislature” but rather to flag the conflict (in its view) between state constitution and statute, and leave it to the Legislature to correct it. Therefore, whatever the legislature does within the next six months, whether amending the marriage statute to permit gay marriage, adopting a Vermont-like civil unions law, or beginning the amendment process for the state constitution to allow for laws that permit mixed-sex couples but not gay couples to marry, would be considered as adequate response to the court’s provision. Ordinarily, a court suspending the effect of a ruling will do it for a specific period, to enable actions to be taken that will resolve the need for an order giving effect to the ruling, where it believes that such action can be validly taken. There is nothing preventing the Commonwealth Attorney from appearing in court and stating that the General Court (legislature) has begun the process of amending the state constitution, and praying for an extension of the suspension of the ruling – which the court would probably grant.

As I see it, the court is not going to second-guess the General Court and presume what it will do. The six months gives adequate time to pass a revised statute, or to begin the amendment process, whichever the GC decides to do. If the latter process is begun, then there is nothing to stop the granting of adequate time to complete it. If the former process, it can be completed within the time frame.

If the Court had been activist, it would have simply thrown out the specific provisions of the marriage law limiting marriage to mixed-sex couples, as a violation of the constitutional provision relied on. This way, it permits the General Court to go either way, so long as they resolve the conflict.

And IMHO it’s a brilliant example of how to combine practical judicial review with judicial self-restraint.

You are probably in error here. It’s not as if there is one law defining marriage as being between two people with a separate clause requiring that those people be man and woman, in which case you could throw out the clause and leave the rest standing. There is one law that says a man and woman can get married, and does not make provisions for anyone else. The only alternative the court had was to strike down the entire marriage law as unconstitutional, thus nullifying all marriages in the state. Not too hard to figure out why they didn’t choose that route.

I should have been more precise in pointing out my quibble (and it’s a quibble, not a giant disagreement). It was this (my bolding):

Here’s how I see the extremes of activism/no activism:

No activism: Allow something like 18 months to sort this out. Time to amend the consitiution if necessary.

Complete activism: Strike down the gay marriage ban and demand that gays be allowed to marry tomorrw.

Since they did something inbetween, even if it’s closer to the “no activism” side of the scale, there is is still a wee bit of activism there. Anyway, no big deal-- just wanted to clarify my original remark on this… We’ll be able to see what happens in 6 months and know for sure how activist the court is being.

Izzy, kindly show me the law that was supecifically passed allowing you in particular to post on this board.

In the absence of a law regulating marriage, any marriage is legal. The state undertakes to regulate it in its police power capacity of protecting the public welfare, ensuring that a 13-year-old girl in love for the first time will not make decisions she’ll regret later, and that the Kallikaks do not have inbred marriages. Marriage is defined as a fundamental right under the ruling in Loving v. Virginia. If the law was stricken, no marriage would be nullified.

I can adduce evidence to that effect: my grandparents were the last family married in their city, and we believe in New York State, without a marriage license – the law requiring one taking effect 30 minutes after they exchanged vows.

The problem with the kind of ammendment mentioned here is that everyone knows, at some level, that it will have to be repealed sooner or later.

Sometime in the future, society will eventually realize that laws that discriminate should not be tolerated.

I pity the president/congress that allows such an ammendment to be passed. History will not be kind to them.

How can the government decide issues of “sanctity.” That’s purely a religious designation. Isn’t that a Constitutional non-starter?

Not everyone in the US is as literal in their use of words as some folks on the SDMB. I would interpret “sanctity” in this sense as meaning “not to be tampered with” or “not to be expanded beyond its traditional meaning”. I would be very surprised if the amendment, once drafted, would contain that word, though. Some lawyer will wordsmith it to make sure it doesn’t kill itself due to its own language.

Not a valid comparison. In the case of gay marriage the government is not outlawing any action. It is merely not conferring legal status on this particular bond. While any action is legal unless it is outlawed, no bond has legal status unless it is specifically recognized.

ISTM that Bush is attempting to nuance his position.

Rather like six of the nine Democratic nominees -

So they are against gay marriage, but in favor of civil unions, whatever that means.

Whether this is more honest or straightforward than Bush saying, in essence, “I don’t think we should amend the Constitution unless the states can’t work it out” is not for me to say.


I think the real issue is whether 2 people who run a household, regardless of sexual orientation, should be allowed the same societal benefits as a married couple.
The issue really should be about ALL unmarried partnership arrangements. There are a lot of unmarried hetero couples also that should be considered. Often these couples lack only a state license and in all other respects are “married” with shared finances and children.
There are “couples” that consiste of two unmarried yet hetero women who share the duties of raising children and and also in most ways resemble a married" couple.
Basically what we need is to define just what constitutes a “family”.

That’s a nonsense position, though, as the Constitutional amendment text currently being pushed into the House would ban civil unions alongside gay marriage (and most other forms of governmental recognition of couples, from domestic partnership laws and on up). It’s another example of Bush pretending to be a moderate in order to help pass a hateful, evil, far-right agenda item: the total marginalization of gay Americans.

Picking on gays with the Constitution itself is a wet dream for religious fanatics like Bush.

No it wouldn’t. The text I’ve seen says this (if you have another version, let’s see it):

It would disallow the courts from finding a right to civil unions in the Federal or any State consitution (or any existing law), but it would not prevent state legislatures from passing civil union laws.

Most people in the US oppose gay marriage. If the courts try to ram it down people’s throats, don’t be surprise if there is a backlash, including a constituational amendment. I’m not certain it would pass, and I wouldn’t favor its passing, but I wouldn’t be too surpised if it did.