WASHINGTON (BP)–White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Jan. 18 that President Bush remains “firmly committed” to passing a constitutional marriage amendment during his second term, two days after The Washington Post quoted Bush as saying the Senate was not ready to pass such a proposal.
“The president will continue to advocate the need for a constitutional amendment to protect the sanctity of marriage,” McClellan told reporters. “It is something he believes very strongly in. In fact, he has already spent a lot of political capital on getting that initiative moving.”
Bush’s remarks sparked concern from some pro-family leaders that he was backtracking on his support for a marriage amendment. In the interview with The Post, Bush said he believed that an amendment was “necessary” but that the response in the Senate has been tepid. The interview appeared in the Jan. 16 edition of The Post.
“They know DOMA is in place, and they’re waiting to see whether or not DOMA will withstand a constitutional challenge,” Bush said, referring to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriage.”
“… Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I’d take their admonition seriously.”
McClellan said Bush was referring to the “legislative reality” behind passing an amendment, which would need 67 votes to make it out of the Senate. On a procedural vote last summer, it received only 48 votes and was filibustered. During floor debate a few senators indicated they could support an amendment if DOMA was overturned.
“[T]here are a number of members of the Senate that have said that they’re not open to it until the Defense of Marriage Act faces a serious legal challenge,” McClellan said. “… But [Bush] remains firmly committed to protecting the sanctity of marriage and moving forward on a constitutional amendment.”
Lawsuits against the Defense of Marriage Act are pending in federal courts in Florida, California and Oklahoma. Multiple lawsuits have been filed in Florida — including separate suits by homosexual couples who have received marriage licenses in Canada and Massachusetts. Amendment backers warn that the Supreme Court eventually will overturn DOMA, thus legalizing same-sex “marriage” nationwide.
Same-sex “marriage” is legal only in Massachusetts, although that could change this year if homosexual activists are successful in lawsuits that have been filed in other states, such as Washington state and New Jersey.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Bush gave an accurate description of the outlook in the Senate but nonetheless made a “tactical mistake” with his remarks.
“I have no doubt that the president is firmly committed to a marriage protection amendment,” Land told Baptist Press. “In his interview, he was giving an accurate description of the current legislation situation, which unfortunately has the tactical result of giving senators who don’t want to vote on this an excuse.
“The president needs to shore up any doubts that some may have about his commitment to this issue by using the bully pulpit of the presidency … to make it clear that he’s not only committed to it, but it’s a high priority. This is extremely important because without the president’s strong support it will not be possible to get the required two-thirds vote in both the house and the senate.”
Land predicted that a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution will garner more support once a federal judge strikes down a state constitutional marriage amendment — such as one of the ones passed by voters on Election Day. Federal lawsuits are pending against state amendments in Oklahoma and Nebraska. Once a state amendment is overturned, Land said, politicians won’t be able to rely on a states’ rights argument.
“The excuse that many senators and congressmen are using, that this is still up to each state, will have been proven false by raw federal judicial power,” Land said.
Last December Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and a solid supporter of a marriage amendment, told the Associated Press that “we’re going to have to see additional court cases come down” before sentiment in the Senate changes.
Said McClellan: “[W]e’re going to continue to encourage [the Senate] to move forward on it. And I think it’s important for those who support this effort in the country to make it clear that they want to take this step to protect the sanctity of marriage as well, and make those views known to members of Congress, too.”
Tony Perkins, president of the pro-family organization Family Research Council, asserted that Bush should support a marriage amendment with the same “resolve” that he supports Social Security reform. Perkins noted that values voters were a large part of the president’s base on Election Day.
“While Social Security and tort reform are important initiatives, there was far less outcry for reform of these laws from the American public,” Perkins said in a statement. “No doubt there are many in the Senate, even within the president’s own party, who oppose such policy initiatives; however, there is no evidence such indifference or opposition is deterring the president from including them in his second term agenda. He should have at least the same resolve if not more to protect the institution of marriage.”
Exit polls on Election Day showed that “moral values” ranked No. 1 in a list of issues most important to voters. Eighty percent of those who listed moral values first voted for Bush.
Land asserted that the president’s position on an amendment is critical to his relationship with values voters.
“The strong stance he took to defend traditional marriage — including a marriage protection amendment — was one of the major reasons that evangelicals and social conservatives voted for him in such record-breaking numbers. They trust this president and they believe in this president. Anything that causes any doubt to creep into that relationship needs to be quickly alleviated.”
Bush, Land said, “is the only one” who can “convincingly” clear up the matter.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage