Susan Jones | Morning Editor | Wednesday, December 17, 2003
In an interview with ABC News Tuesday, President Bush - asked about his position on a constitutional amendment to defend the traditional definition of marriage - replied this way:
"If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that," Bush told ABC's Diane Sawyer. "The position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state or at the state level."
Bush told Sawyer, "I do believe in the sanctity of marriage ... but I don't see that as conflict with being a tolerant person or an understanding person."
The Family Research Council, which strongly supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, said it is encouraged that President Bush also would support such an amendment.
However, FRC President Tony Perkins said he's "very concerned" about Bush's comment that seems to suggest marriage can be redefined at the state level.
"This sounds as though the administration would support civil unions, which are counterfeits of the institution of marriage," Perkins said in a press release. "The president's remarks also undermine state legislators, who are fighting to protect the institution of marriage in states like Massachusetts."
According to Perkins, marriage is more than tax credits and financial benefits. "For a variety of reasons, the institution of marriage is the bedrock of our nation and no state should have the ability to alter that," he said.
Likewise -- but for different reasons -- homosexual advocacy groups criticized Bush's remarks. Those groups strongly oppose a federal marriage amendment.
"It is never necessary to insert prejudice and discrimination into the U.S. Constitution -- a document that has a proud history of being used to expand an individual's liberty and freedom, not to take them away," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the federal marriage amendment would "strip away any legal protection for millions of hard-working, tax-paying Americans and their children, including the right to Social Security survivor benefits, to the right to inherit a partner's property without heavy tax penalties, even the right to visit a loved one in the hospital.
"And any attempt to use this amendment to score a few votes is a strategy sure to backfire and cost elected officials their claims of compassionate conservativism," Stachelberg said.
A federal marriage amendment is pending in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The issue gained momentum after the Massachusetts supreme court ordered the state to rewrite its marriage laws to include same-sex couples.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason" to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.