Same-sex marriage was a hot topic back in 2004. Just 20 days after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that only marriage—not civil unions—would do justice to the gay and lesbian residents of that state, President George W. Bush went on television to endorse the idea of a Constitutional amendment to enshrine the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
“The union of a man and a woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith,” Bush said.
“Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.”
Bush held the press conference because it seemed the issue of same-sex marriage was gaining steam, and, worse yet, acceptance. Days earlier, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and county clerks in Sandoval, N.M. had issued 26 marriage licenses before a court put a stop to that practice.
Despite Bush’s urge to put an end to such progress via an amendment to the Constitution, Massachusetts married its first gay couple that May, while thirteen other states enacted state constitutional amendments to ban the practice.
It was against this divisive backdrop that First Lady Laura Bush made an impassioned plea to her husband—a plea now revealed in her upcoming memoir Spoken from the Heart.
“I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.”
It led to one of the main wedge issues in the 2004 presidential campaign as Bush ran against Senator John Kerry.
On the surface, Laura Bush’s revelation makes her seem almost human—like she actually cares about gay and lesbian people—especially those who are her friends. When considered more deeply, however, it points up the wild hypocrisy of such a stand, and reaffirms the death grip the religious right wields in the political arena.
Even if President Bush loved all his gay friends and would love to attend the weddings of all his gay friends, politically, he had to throw them under the bus with all haste. If he had not come out strongly for a constitutional amendment defining marriage he would have been pilloried by his right wing base, and the election would have been handed to Kerry on a silver platter.
Sorry, gay and lesbian friends, under the bus you go.
This is why I never believe a word uttered by religious right groups when they talk about how they are the persecuted minority in this country whose rights are being trampled. They are not being persecuted, they are the persecutors—and they are the ones with the power to make politicians bend to their will and their agenda. This episode is a prime example.
I suppose Mrs. Bush’s plea to her husband could be seen as a misguided attempt to shield her gay and lesbian friends from the pain of being a political football, but the reality is, her husband was in a position to do a lot of good for their “dear” gay and lesbian friends. He could have help to lift them from second class citizenship and championed their rights. Instead, he abandoned them, preferring to pander to the religious right and be seen as “a man of God.”
George W. Bush, and his wife, put their political careers above their friends. They put personal gain over loyalty. People of integrity do not do this. People of integrity stand up for what is right, even if it’s political suicide.
We wonder why people are so cynical about politicians. It’s because they are so fast to sell their souls to the highest bidder—or to those with the most political clout who can personally benefit them. Mrs. Bush, you and your husband had a real chance to prove to those friends of yours just how “dear” they really are to you. Instead, you chose political expediency.
Shame on you.