Bush backs right-wing marriage agenda
by Patrick Letellier
Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network
To the alarm of many gay rights advocates, President George W. Bush signed a proclamation on Friday endorsing the "Marriage Protection Week," to be held Oct. 12-18.
Defining marriage as "a union between a man and a woman," the proclamation calls on "all Americans to join (Bush) in expressing support for the institution of marriage with all its benefits to our people, our culture and our society."
"Marriage is a sacred institution," the proclamation states, "and its protection is essential to the continued strength of our society." Though the campaign clearly excludes same-sex marriages from "protection," it ends with an admonition for Americans to "continue our work to create a compassionate, welcoming society, where all people are treated with dignity and respect."
Marriage Protection Week is being organized by 21 right-wing, conservative organizations including the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Southern Baptist Convention. The groups are planning a weeklong blitzkrieg of media events denouncing same-sex marriage and promoting "traditional marriage between a man and a woman" as "the God-ordained bedrock of society," according to the campaign's Web site.
The organizations' goals are explicit: to outlaw gay marriage and prohibit any legal recognition of same-sex relationships, including civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Gay leaders condemned Bush and the proclamation, and voiced grave concern for the security of gay rights nationwide. Matt Foreman, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network the escalating attack on gay marriage is a "profoundly frightening frontal assault."
"We are shocked, appalled and immensely saddened that the president officially sanctioned this vindictive campaign to vilify gay people and our families," Foreman said.
"We have a group of incredibly wealthy, politically connected and organized institutions lining up against our movement and our community -- it's terrifying," he said. "We need to understand that this attack is directed at each of us personally," Foreman said.
Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network, "It's the height of irony that this president, presiding over the most immoral and criminal administration in my lifetime, has the audacity to call us immoral simply because we wish to form loving relationships and have the protection of law when we do so."
"I don't consider myself particularly hyperbolic," Kendell said, "but what the Bush administration has done -- not just with gay marriage but all around the world -- is just so beyond the pale of what any of us imagined would happen."
"It's scary," Kendell said, "especially when I look at my kids."
Joan M. Garry, director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was no less pointed. "President Bush has just endorsed an organized agenda of bigotry, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance," she said in a prepared statement. "It's critically important that the media ask the Bush administration and its supporters to defend their association with professional homophobes who seek to target, undermine and destroy American families," she said.
Kendell and Foreman both believe that Bush is using gay marriage as a wedge issue to divide the American public and drum up conservative support for his 2004 re-election campaign.
"And all the signs are that the world is going to become even more perilous for us under Bush's leadership," Kendell said.
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