In an ironic juxtaposition, aletter revealed Monday by the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church shows that President Bush congratulated MCC on its 35th anniversary during the same week he designated as Marriage Protection Week. MCC performs more than 6,000 gay weddings annually.
In the letter dated October 14, 2003, to MCC Los Angeles, the founding congregation of Metropolitan Community Church, President Bush wrote: "By encouraging the celebration of faith and sharing of God's love and boundless mercy, churches like yours put hope in people's hearts and a sense of purpose in their lives. This milestone provides an opportunity to reflect on your years of service and to rejoice in God's faithfulness to your congregation." The letter was received during the antigay Marriage Protection Week, an effort endorsed by Bush and organized by antigay religious leaders and groups, including Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the American Family Association. Many activists claimed their aim was solely to firm up opposition to same-sex marriage. In his proclamation endorsing Marriage Protection Week, President Bush wrote, "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."
The Reverend Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Church, expressed alarm at Bush's proclamation in support of Marriage Protection Week, which he said was designed "to preserve the sacred institution of marriage" by denying the right to marry to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. "President Bush was wrong in his endorsement of a week dedicated to denying equal rights to gays and lesbians," Perry said. "And while we appreciate the sentiments he expressed on MCC's anniversary, the president has sent a very mixed message that makes his effusive praise of MCC's 35th anniversary all the more puzzling."
"How does one denounce the right of gays and lesbians to marry in their churches and suggest they are incapable of having healthy marriages in one moment, and in the next rejoice in God's faithfulness to a gay and lesbian congregation that performs such same-sex marriages?" asked the Reverend Neil Thomas, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles.