Bush joins gay marriage debate

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com July 03 2003 11:00 PM ET

President Bush said Wednesday that a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage that has been proposed in the House might not be needed despite a Supreme Court decision that some conservatives think opens the door to legalizing same-sex marriage. "I don't know if it's necessary yet," Bush said when asked about his views at an impromptu news conference following his announcement of a new global AIDS ambassador. "Let's let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing. What I do support is a notion that marriage is between a man and a woman." Bush's words were aimed at calming members of the GOP's right wing, who are upset about the Supreme Court decision, said Patrick Guerriero, director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay advocacy group. "I think what you're seeing is a momentary time-out from the radical right's temper tantrum," Guerriero said.

In striking down a Texas law that made gay sex a crime, the Supreme Court on June 26 overturned an earlier decision that states could punish gays for having sex. Justice Antonin Scalia fired off a blistering dissent regarding the Lawrence v. Texas ruling. The "opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned," Scalia wrote. The ruling specifically said that the court was not addressing that issue, but Scalia warned, "Do not believe it."

The Supreme Court's decision was a broad ruling addressing privacy, and gay rights groups are saying they will use it to push for more legal rights. "We have a powerful new weapon in our legal battles on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, but the impact of this ruling also stretches well beyond the walls of our nation's courtrooms," Kevin Cathcart, director of New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Wednesday in announcing a new online resource that maps out how the group will use the ruling to win full recognition of same-sex relationships, among other
things. Legal authorities are also combing the decision to see what its impact will really be on other gay rights issues. "I don't know that there is any clear assessment--that anybody has at this point--about the legal ramifications of a just-made decision," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) is the main sponsor of the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was offered May 21. On June 25 it was referred to the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution. To be added to the Constitution, the proposal must be approved by two thirds of the House and the Senate and ratified by three fourths of the states. Last Sunday Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said the Supreme Court's recent ruling threatens to make the American home a place where criminality is condoned. He said he supports the proposed constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage in the United States.