Remain calm, All hell isn’t breaking loose - - Some days, and weeks, it seems that there is so much going on in this little world of ours, that it is impossible to keep up. I don’t know what people are more fired up about this week? Is it the battle over Gay Marriage? The controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”? The situation in Haiti? The 2004 Democratic Primary race? A-Rod with the Yankees?
On Gay Marriage.The central clearing house for those opposing President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment on the this issue is Andrew Sullivan. “The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land. Rather than allow the contentious and difficult issue of equal marriage rights to be fought over in the states, rather than let politics and the law take their course, rather than keep the Constitution out of the culture wars, this president wants to drag the very founding document into his re-election campaign. He is proposing to remove civil rights from one group of American citizens - and do so in the Constitution itself. The message could not be plainer: these citizens do not fully belong in America.”
Now, Sullivan makes plenty of sense building the case, but from what I can understand he might be overplaying his fear of the constitutional amendment. Glenn Reynolds noted this thought from Roger Simon’s blog earlier today. “"Hey, in America we're having fights about whether gay people can get married whereas in other parts of the world (like the Middle East) they simply kill gay people with rocks."
The situation is plenty confusing. Bush’s speech today looks to some less anti-gay than it does pro the Defense of Marriage Act. Although it is clear that the media spin tonight is that Bush’s proposal does exactly the former. The headline, pithy one at that, from AP is: “Bush backs Amendment banning Gay Marriage.” But is that really what this does?
More Reynolds: It’s more like the “constitutionalization of the Defense of Marriage Act -- which would do exactly nothing, since, even pre-DOMA, states didn't have to recognize each others' marriages. There is some stuff about marriage being between a man and a woman, but it also seems as if that wouldn't be binding on the states (or, if it is, only to the extent that they can't call it "marriage.")” (See more from Prof. Reynolds here)
Moreover, I think the major problem Bush has with this issue is that law is being created by courts rather than by the people. By the sounds of it Bush is perfectly fine with civil unions, or gay marriage, so long as he doesn’t have to tell his base that he didn’t do anything about it, or that some crackpot judge unilaterally made the law of the land. This seems like a fair and reasonable status quo.
Now the politics: It’s February still. What are the chances that this will still be a vote rallying issue come November? At the very least Bush may have pushed Kerry off the front pages with some more primary wins today.
Ramesh Ponnuru suggests, “there are two political risks for him to balance in making this decision. The lesser risk is that he talks about it too much, and looks too obsessed about the issue. The greater risk is that he talks about it too little, and allows the media, his opponents, and certain of his "allies" to frame the issue.”
The most interesting to come of this battle, as Hugh Hewitt notes, is a critical lens and debate surrounding the issue of the courts making law and the legislative branches of governments allowing them to do so, since the buck never stops at their desks. Not only that, the Congress will have to move it, then the States will have to move it. Did President Bush actually strike a blow for the government by the people today? Elected officials deciding on the law rather than appointed judges? And if it doesn't go through or Gay Marriages become the law in every one of the states, then it can be said, that there was a debate, and the duly elected representatives made the law. It's pretty win-win. The minimum, seems for a token homage to marriage being defined as a union between a man and a women under federal law, while states can make whatever unions, between whomever they please, and possibly calling it something different. Sounds fairly reasonable no?
Amazing. Has Bush done it again? It’s a tightrope, but it might be crazy enough to work.