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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 21, 2005

Bush does Texas two-step on U.S. ban amendment

Washington, D.C.--President George W. Bush will not press for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, he told the Washington Post in an exclusive interview conducted aboard Air Force One and published on January 16. But even before the article was published, the White House was seeking to �clarify� its position.

�Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA [the federal Defense of Marriage Act] is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I�d take their admonition seriously . . . Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate,� Bush told the Post.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan clarified the president�s position as being �willing to spend political capital� on the issue, but that for practical reasons that is not likely to be enough to achieve the two-thirds vote required to pass a constitutional amendment.

Social conservatives were apoplectic at the thought of anything less than total dedication to their cause. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, pointed to the �values voters� who overwhelmingly supported Bush in November.

�Freshly equipped with the demands of the American people, the president should lead the United States Senate in moving ahead to check the pending judicial assault on marriage,� he said.

Log Cabin Republicans executive director Patrick Guerriero �is hopeful that the president�s comments recognizing the lack of support for the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment will result in a second-term agenda that can concentrate on much needed reform.�

Gay pundit Andrew Sullivan wrote on his blog, �The FMA has gone unmentioned by Bush since the election--and it appears more and more like a pre-election ploy rather than a principled stand. (Of course, that�s a relief but it�s also an indication of how bald-faced a political maneuver this was in the first place). But this piece of sanity from the president deserves praise and reciprocation from those of us who support equality in marriage.�

Sullivan urged supporters to �refrain from any constitutional or legal challenge to DOMA for the foreseeable future� while the experiment of gay marriage plays out in Massachusetts.

Bush�s statement is consistent with his earlier position on same sex coupling. His born-again experience is tempered by a residual Yankee reticence to publicly discuss details of his religious beliefs.

He has strongly articulated his view that marriage is between a man and a woman, but he is a more reluctant supporter of a constitutional amendment. While endorsing the concept of an amendment, he has not backed any particular language on that subject.

There is also a division within the Republican Party on the subject. On January 16, the New York Times carried the wedding announcement of Dee Mosbacher to her lesbian partner. The Mosbacher and Bush families have strong ties through the Houston oil industry; Dee�s father raised millions for the first President Bush and served as his secretary of commerce.

Finally, the president is a pragmatic politician whose administration is exceedingly good as staying �on message,� not letting peripheral issues distract it from its primary legislative and political objectives.

Bush did not lobby Congress last year on the FMA and it appears that he is not likely to start now.

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