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2004-01-21

Bush Denounces Gay Marriage in State of the Union

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Bush denounced gay marriage saying, "Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage." He also said a constitutional ban on gay marriage may be needed if "activist judges" ignored public will. We hear from a gay community activist who traveled to Canada to get legally married. [includes transcript]

Behind Bush’s State of the Union: Part V of a Five-Part Special

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to go to an excerpt of the speech President Bush gave last night that many see as one of the major issues he will take on in his bid for re-election. That’s the issue of gay marriage.

PRESIDENT BUSH: A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the defense of marriage act signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as a union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order without regard for the will of the people, and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in his State of the Union address last night. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union on the line with us. We’re also joined in the studio by Brendan Faye, a gay community organizer and co-chair of the Civil Marriage Trail Project. Anthony Romero, interestingly, President Bush did not call for a Constitutional amendment. There is an increasing movement for that, but he is being opposed by many conservatives when it comes to that issue.

ANTHONY ROMERO: That’s right, Amy. What’s interesting is he still left the door open for that possibility. What you found is that much of the president’s remarks on gay marriage really echoed the same remarks he made around the PATRIOT Act. He again is just trying to draw some very clear lines around the law and the effect on basic rights. What you find here is that the president really is using the election as a bully pulpit to push through a very ideological and partisan agenda.

What’s also interesting is that in both areas of the law, you find the Bush Administration with outright hostility to the judiciary, which is remarkable. That has been the number one battle with the PATRIOT Act and the issues around the PATRIOT Act, about submitting executive branch action to judicial review. That’s why there were ironic parts when you talk about bringing terrorists to justice. It’s laughable in some instances. In fact, the Bush administration has fought every step of the way when we have tried to assert a due process, a system of checks and balances and rights for individuals charged with potential terrorism. I mean, look at the Guantanamo bay case. They fought it tooth and nail, going to the supreme court. The same issue is played out on gay marriage. Now he’s taking a shot at the activist judges, quote, unquote. And where he leaves open the possibility, if necessary, of amending the Constitution.

As you mentioned, Amy, he is already seeing enormous amount of opposition from within his own Republican Party just as he is under the PATRIOT Act. There is Republicans and individuals on the right wing, especially the libertarian wing of the Republican Party who disagree with him, who think that the idea of possibly amending the Constitution to discriminate, of amending the Constitution to deny basic rights, is just wrong-headed. That we don’t tamper with the Constitution, that the judges have an important role in interpreting and enforcing the nation’s laws, and that neither Congress nor the president can unilaterally super ride or override the actions of the deliberations of Congress. I think what is just also truly laughable when they talk about the fact this is a president that’s tried to show compassion and someone who has showed a concern for social issues, I mean, let’s remind ourselves that marriage is a commitment. It’s about sharing of love and trust and compromise and that when two adults make this personal, private choice in their own lives to from a lifelong commitment, who is it for the president or anyone this country to deny their rights to marry just because of who they are.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Romero, ACLU, Executive Director. We also are joined in the studio by Brendan Fay, who was on the front page of the Pos, the New York Post that is, after getting married in Canada. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

BRENDAN FAY: Thank you very much. Good morning, Amy, and to all of your listeners. I thought it was an extraordinary statement by the president last night, not surprising, maybe, especially a statement when he mentioned that activist judges, however, have been redefining marriage by court order without regard for the will of the people. Of course, I would ask, well, what about the activist judges who gave him the presidency against the will of the people? What about the activist judges who in former times have indeed been addressing the legal definition of marriage, such as in 1967 when judges redefined it and altered the legal definition of marriage ending and overturning misogyny laws.

I think as regards—of course, he mentioned about the people’s voice must be heard. Well, what of the people’s voice? And this past July, July 2003, a Gallup poll a national poll, found that 49% to 50% of Americans supported marriage licenses to be extended to same-sex couples. I think the American people are fair-minded, are decent and ready to end the inequality experienced by too many families in this country. 1,049 legal rights denied to the same-sex couples. Immigration rights, the right to visit one’s loved one in hospitals, medical decisions, adoption, economic issues, housing. There are too many rights, and in fact, there is a movement, an international movement forward to end the inequality around the issue of civil marriage. Hundreds of couples are crossing the border into Canada since it became legal there this past June. Indeed, this coming February, Valentine’s Day, couples will cross the border simply seeking the equality in civil marriage that they continue to be denied here.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean that you were married in Canada. How does that hold up here in the United States in the eyes of the law?

BRENDAN FAY: Okay. Well, historically there has been a mutual respect between Canada and the United States for legal contracts such as civil marriage performed. So, U.S. couples who cross into Canada don’t expect to have their marriages questioned. But, of course, with D.O.M.A., this has chosen the question —

AMY GOODMAN: The Defense of Marriage Act.

BRENDAN FAY: The Defense of Marriage Act signed by president Clinton and referred to by the president last night and the hundreds of couples who have returned as legally married couples such as Tom and myself, what we are finding is that our communities, our families recognize that we are a legally married couple. I have health insurance and benefits because Tom’s hospital recognizes us as a legally married couple. But it is going to—I think we’re going to see some legal cases.

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, the terror attacks of 9-11 loomed over a lot last night. You were a good friend of, in fact, we had you on the program after September 11th talking about the catholic priest, the chaplain, Michael Judge, who was the fire department chaplain, and he raced down on September 11th to the World Trade Center, and was killed.

BRENDAN FAY: That’s right. I was, you know, of course, when I hear the president’s constantly referring to the tragedy of 9-11, and I think of people like Father Michael Judge a Franciscan chaplain, a face of compassion and peace in the midst of this hate and terror, and he in fact continues to be an icon of peace, of compassion of openness, and care for all, especially those that are the poor and so on. He was also a gay man who was deeply concerned about his gay brothers and sisters. I think of those of our community who lost partners in the September 11 tragedy, and the extraordinary efforts and lengths that our families had to go through simply to have our relationships recognized and honored. And I think Michael Judge is a reminder of the need to first of all his own Franciscan vocation to work passionately for peace.

Secondly, in this city, his reputation as a person who cared for the poor, who was deeply concerned for his gay brothers and sisters, that they—that when we—that when we remember him, that we must remember to continue to work. For the rights of those people, who are left behind by the president: the poor, lesbian and gay people. But what I see happening is that people are actually inspired by Michael Judge to work for greater awareness of all, of all people, including those in the lesbian and gay communities.

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