Endorsing a campaign by such antigay groups as the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, and the Christian Coalition, President Bush on Friday proclaimed October 12-18 "Marriage Protection Week." As part of their coordinated effort, far right groups are using the week to distribute antigay church bulletins to over 70,000 churches. In addition, Christian radio shows will schedule programming all week on banning same-sex marriages. The groups hope to make the debate over same-sex marriage--along with the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment--the number 1 social issue in the 2004 general election.
In his proclamation, Bush said, "Marriage is a sacred institution, and its protection is essential to the continued strength of our society. Marriage Protection Week provides an opportunity to focus our efforts on preserving the sanctity of marriage and on building strong and healthy marriages in America."
He continued, "Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and my administration is working to support the institution of marriage by helping couples build successful marriages and be good parents."
The proclamation drew strong criticism from gay and lesbian activists. "We are shocked, appalled and immensely saddened that President Bush has sanctioned the so-called 'Marriage Protection Week' with an official proclamation," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Contrary to his statement, this 'week' has nothing to do with 'building strong and healthy marriages in America.' Rather, it is a bald campaign to demonize and defame gay people and our families, a shameful mixing of religion and politics. This attack is about even more than denying our families equal civil rights and responsibilities that are associated with marriage, but also seeks to deny any legal recognition whatsoever to our families."
Added Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign: "It is reprehensible for a president who claims to be compassionate to pander to a coalition of extremist groups by joining their assault on gay families. The American people want to see politicians in Washington concentrating on the real threats to our families--an unstable economy, high unemployment rates, and uncertainty in Iraq--not guaranteeing that same-sex couples are left without more than 1,000 rights, responsibilities, and protections under federal law."
"The Bush administration has issued a direct attack on millions of American families on behalf of antigay organizations," said Dave Noble, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. "President Bush has failed to address even one of the thousands of issues that negatively impact our families, yet he has chosen to grant discrimination a federal blessing with this proclamation."
Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called on the media to examine Bush's support of the far-right agenda on denying gay people marriage rights. "President Bush has just endorsed an organized agenda of bigotry, discrimination, exclusion, and intolerance," said GLAAD executive director Joan M. Garry. "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. Such attempts to deny protections to some American families are in fact an attack on all American families."