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Bush and the bigots want to ban gay marriage
We want equal rights now!

By Elizabeth Schulte | March 5, 2004 | Page 12

GEORGE W. BUSH wants to make bigotry the law of the land. In late February, Bush showed his utter contempt for gays and lesbians when he announced his intention to push for an amendment to the Constitution that bans gay marriage. "After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization," Bush claimed on February 24. "Their action has created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."

The ban that Bush will likely favor was introduced by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (D-Colo.). It bans same-sex marriage and its "legal incidents"--a catch-all term that could be used to prevent gay couples from getting the economic benefits of civil unions and domestic partnerships now in place in many cities and states, and officially recognized by some corporations.

In other words, Bush and his bipartisan allies want to write discrimination into the Constitution.

Bush's announcement came in the wake of an outpouring of action as gays and lesbians stood up to the bigots who want to deny their rights. Starting in mid-February, thousands of gay and lesbian couples descended on San Francisco's city hall to get married in defiance of a California law banning same-sex marriage. For days, people were camped out around city hall, even in the pouring rain, after Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the city would begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Last year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for gays and lesbians to begin getting married in May 2004. The response from politicians in "liberal" Massachusetts? Lawmakers convened a special legislative session to try to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. With pro-gay marriage demonstrators facing off against opponents in the streets outside the statehouse, the politicians deadlocked on a ban. But they plan to meet again in March in the hopes of passing a "compromise" ban.

Action in defense of gay civil rights has spread from San Francisco and Boston across the country. The day after Bush announced his support of an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, hundreds of people turned out to press conferences and protests in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Several cities are looking to the example of San Francisco. In New Paltz, N.Y., a town about 75 miles north of New York City, the Green Party mayor began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples last week. "What we're witnessing in America today is the flowering of the largest civil rights movement the country's had in a generation," said Mayor Jason West. In Oakland, the city council is proposing a resolution to urge the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married there. Berkeley adopted a similar resolution on February 17.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley said he would support county officials issuing same-sex marriage licenses. When Bush made his announcement about a constitutional amendment, Chicago aldermen stepped up pressure on the county board to vote to issue the licenses. Gay rights supporters have come together in Chicago to organize a protest to demand their right to marry--now!

The Bush administration's attack on gay marriage is plainly designed to play to conservatives and get out the vote for the November presidential election. This would be the perfect time for the Democrats to make good on their claims that they'll "stand up to Bush." But don't count on it.

John Kerry, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, agrees with Bush on the issue of gay marriage. He says that he favors a constitutional ban on gay marriage in his home state of Massachusetts--and that the issue should be "left up to the states" to decide. Already, 37 states have gay marriage bans, and more are rushing to pass them--recalling a time decades ago when states passed laws making interracial marriage a crime.

Like Kerry, Sen. John Edwards, Kerry's main rival for the nomination, was irritated that he was even being asked the question, calling it a "diversion" from real campaign issues. If the Democrats won't stand up for gay marriage, gay rights supporters are saying, "We will." In New York City, after heated discussion among activists, some 300 gay marriage supporters decided to protest the Democratic candidates taking part in a debate at CBS's offices on February 29.

They chanted, "Kerry and Edwards, take a stand. Equal marriage we demand!" "The GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered] community of New York is fed up with being treated as second-class citizens," longtime activist Alan Klein told Socialist Worker. "We're here to say, 'Give us marriage licenses now.' We want the Democratic candidates to know that this is an important issue, and we can't be ignored."

If the politicians--Republicans and Democrats alike--get away with this assault on gay marriage, the right wing will only feel more confident to continue their assault--on women's right to abortion, on immigrants, on affirmative action, on our unions. The fight for gay marriage is a fight for all of us. It's time to revive the old labor slogan: "An injury to one is an injury to all!"

Anti-gay bigots behind Bush's assault

RANDY THOMASSON, founder of the Campaign for California Families, one of the groups that tried to block gay marriages in San Francisco, doesn't mince words. "What's next?" he asks, "Legalized heroin? Prostitution? Polygamy? Incest?"

Along with the right-wing Christian group, Repent America, that has been picketing San Francisco's city hall, the Campaign for California Families might seem to be on the fringe of U.S. politics. Yet when George W. Bush was deciding to support a constitutional ban on gay marriage, these are the bigots he met with first.

In November, Bush invited conservative activists, including Focus on the Family head James Dobson, to the Oval Office on the eve of signing a bill banning late-term abortions. There, they urged Bush to ban gay marriage.

And before he made his announcement, Bush met with 13 Roman Catholic conservatives, including Deal Hudson, the publisher of Crisis magazine and a friend of Bush political adviser Karl Rove; and William Donohue, president of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush is hoping his play to the Christian right will help him win in the 2004 presidential election. So far, Bush has received $121,350 from clergy and religious organizations for his 2004 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And religious groups are hoping that the focus on gay marriage will translate into recruitment and some hefty donations. "I have never seen anything that has energized and provoked our grassroots like this issue, including Roe v. Wade," said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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