Marriage on the Rocks
Neumayr, George, The American Spectator
(The GOP needs counseling)
SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES asked officials at the White House last year to issue a proclamation endorsing "Marriage Protection Week." The White House initially refused, they say. Officials worried that the proclamation might lead to unfavorable PR for the president. Its squeamishness over such an innocuous gesture stunned social conservatives. They had to bring pressure from some of their most powerful members to bear on the White House before it finally issued the proclamation. "Our leaders had to call the White House and say, 'You won't even do this?'" says a Washington, D.C. activist. The White House bitterly resented the lobbying. A prominent White House official angrily called one activist and said, "You will get your proclamation," and then hung up.
The incident leaves social conservatives concerned that the White House will show similar ambivalence about a constitutional amendment to protect marriage. They say that White House officials would prefer if President Bush simply punted on the issue.
"White House officials will spend political capital on issues like the Medicare entitlement bill," says one. "But they won't spend political capital on protecting marriage." This social conservative fears that if the White House does support a marriage amendment in 2004 it will do so cynically, without bothering to fight for it. "The White House will probably support the amendment, knowing that it will fail, and then go to the base and say cynically, 'Look, we tried,'" he says.
Asked if the White House would support a constitutional marriage amendment with the same intensity it pushed the Medicare prescription drug bill, a prominent operative who works closely with the White House responded to TAS: "You mean, the anti-gay amendment?" A telling reply. Evidently some at the White House equate support for traditional marriage with homophobia. Pressed further, the operative's final answer was, "I don't know." Not enough polling has been done on the issue yet, he said.
On Capitol Hill Republican support for a marriage amendment isn't as flaky. But deep division and confusion still exist on the issue. A Capitol Hill insider present at meetings amongst House and Senate Republicans on the marriage amendment describes the mood as one of "stunned confusion." Strategy sessions about the marriage amendment are "a total mess," with Republicans going in all directions at once. There are disagreements on everything from the need for an amendment to the wording of it. A White House draft of a marriage amendment circulating in December shocked social conservatives in that it "almost invites the states to pass civil unions," as one put it.
EVEN A TOOTHLESS MARRIAGE AMENDMENT-One that bans homosexual marriage but would permit de facto homosexual marriage in the form of civil unions-isn't guaranteed to pass through a controversy-averse Republican Senate. Activists say Republican senators are either "clueless" or "treacherous" (some Republican senators with ties to homosexual groups are showing up at the meetings) on the amendment. "I was up on Capitol Hill and met with a bunch of senators. None of them appeared to have read or been briefed on the implications of the Supreme Court Lawrence decision," says a leading activist. "Republicans are at best unserious and often defeatist when it comes to debating anything that is central to the culture war."
Democrats appear ready to oppose an amendment. But homosexual marriage leaves them deeply skittish too. The issue has produced ironic inertia all around: most Democrats are too afraid of public opinion to support homosexual marriage; many Republicans are too afraid of public opinion to oppose it.
Judicial activists, meanwhile, are not as bashful. As Republicans dither over whether to advance a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, courts are dismantling it. The Massachusetts Supreme Court last year discovered a right to homosexual marriage in the Massachusetts constitution that John Adams apparently missed. …