Married to the Religious Right

Bush's faux "Protection Week" panders to right-wingers who oppose same-sex marriage

Last weekend, a suicide bomber exploded a car near a Baghdad hotel, killing at least six and injuring over 30. Every day it becomes clearer that the Pentagon’s postwar reconstruction in Iraq is a veritable mess. Meanwhile, the economy continues to stumble, unemployment remains at exceptional highs and the budget deficit keeps ballooning. In the midst of such uncertain and difficult times, at least the White House has its enemies in sight, its allies in line and its priorities in order: by presidential proclamation, Bush has declared Oct. 12 through 18 Marriage Protection Week.

Ironically—perhaps intentionally—falling on the heels of National Coming Out Day, Marriage Protection Week fulfills a partisan promise to the religious right. In fact, Bush made the proclamation on Oct. 3, just one day after a press conference where the Family Research Council, a think tank of the fundamentalist Christian faction of the Republican party, along with several other ultra-conservative organizations, declared its intention to make the “protecting marriage the issue of 2004.”

The proclamation itself is fraught with disingenuous language and empty political rhetoric (for example: “We must support the institution of marriage and help parents build stronger families”). Nowhere in the proclamation is there actually any discussion of who or what is supposedly attempting to undermine the institution of marriage—indeed why marriage supposedly needs protection in the first place.

It is, of course, blatantly and pointedly clear what the actual purpose of this proclamation is. The Bush administration, in characteristically underhanded fashion, seeks to lend support to the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment which would prevent states from offering civil marriage to same-sex couples. The administration may feel that it cannot openly rubber-stamp such a controversial proposal, but it continues to encourage the religious right with pointless proclamations. Bush vacantly declares that “We must continue our work to create a compassionate, welcoming society, where all people are treated with dignity and respect,” but he characteristically fails to include that dignity and respect should also extend to those who wish to marry members of the same sex. Instead, he states plainly that in the eyes of the U.S. government, “Marriage is a union between a man and a woman.”

The definition of marriage is hardly under assault. Those individuals ostensibly threatening it only want fairness under the law—including the social security benefits, hospital visitation rights, equal tax benefits and other privileges of marriage that heterosexual partners enjoy. The religious right who peddle such alarmist lies would have you believe that if marriage were open to homosexual unions, scores of men across America would divorce their wives—and vice versa. The Bush administration’s proclamation is an embarrassing piece of partisan rhetoric, demonstrating nothing except that Bush’s marriage to the extreme right is stronger than ever.