On its face, the proclamation issued by President George Bush to recognize Oct. 12-18 as 'Marriage Protection Week' seems innocuous. Indeed, many of the goals and sentiments expressed in the statement appear admirable and even noble.
Bush says he wants to 'help … couples be good parents'; 'promote the well-being of children' and 'a better quality of life for children'; 'ensure that every child can grow up in a safe and loving home'; and 'do away with rules that have made it more difficult for married couples to move out of poverty.' He even says 'we must continue our work to create a compassionate, welcoming society, where all people are treated with dignity and respect.'
Sounds good. Too bad the president is full of hogwash.
Despite the carefully calculated wording of the statement, Bush's proclamation of 'Marriage Protection Week' is nothing but a presidential booster to an alliance of anti-gay organizations aimed at preventing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Some of the famously homophobic groups behind 'Marriage Protection Week' include the American Family Association, the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition and Concerned Women for America. All of these right-wing groups earned their reputations and national prominence at least in part by crusading heavily against GLBTs.
President Bush is trying to sugar coat his proclamation so that he can support the right-wing fanatics, yet not appear to the rest of the American public to be extremist himself. After all, who can oppose giving children a better life through strengthening their families?
But the truth is that 'Marriage Protection Week' is a scheme concocted by anti-gay groups to rally Americans to continue to deny gay and lesbian couples the same fundamental rights and benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted in our society.
And unlike President Bush, the hateful groups who planted the idea are not shy about expressing their full intentions, even if it means resorting to deceptive scare tactics. For example, the Web site for The Alliance for Marriage—one of the cosponsors of the so-called 'Marriage Protection Week'—explains the purpose of the week this way:
'The sacred institution of marriage is under attack. There are those who want to redefine marriage to include two men, or two women, or a group of any size or mix of sexes: One man and four women, one woman and two men, etc. If they fail to secure legal protection classifying these arrangements as 'marriage,' they want to include all these mixtures under the definition of 'civil union,' giving them identical standing with the marriage of one man and one woman.' They forgot we want to marry our sheep and horses, too.
It's no secret that there is not just a national debate about gay and lesbian marriage, but an international one. Gays and lesbians can marry now in Canada. In California, the legislature just passed a series of laws that give gay and lesbian couples in that state near-equal marriage rights (though the term 'marriage' is carefully avoided, and marriage licenses are not being issued). The highest court in Massachusetts is set to rule any day on a case that might well give gay and lesbian couples full equal marriage rights. And a similar case is winding its way through the courts in New Jersey.
Furthermore, a new poll shows that Americans are split nearly evenly on whether or not to support marriage for gay and lesbian couples. While it's hard to rejoice at the notion that half the nation doesn't see anything wrong with denying gay couples this important right, it's encouraging to note the half-and-half split is the highest percentage to date of Americans who are starting to see the light.
The coalition of right-wing groups that have come up with 'Marriage Protection Week' are hoping to demonize gay and lesbian couples, in an effort to continue denying us the rights and privileges of the institution of marriage.
It's a shame the president is adding his voice to this badly off-key chorus.