Pro-family groups said yesterday that President Bush “drove a wedge” into their efforts to protect marriage by seeming to accept homosexual civil unions, even as he said he could support an amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and woman.
“We need clear leadership in a time of judicial tyranny, not politicians who don’t have the spine to stand up for something as basic as marriage,” said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture and Family Institute.
“Let’s be clear: Creating counterfeits is no way to protect marriage, no matter what you call them,” he said.
Mr. Bush, in an interview with ABC News that aired Tuesday night, said, “If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that.”
But he also said he will leave to states “whatever legal arrangements people want to make.” Asked specifically about civil unions, he said it is a state issue “unless judicial rulings undermine the sanctity of marriage.”
That left many conservatives and pro-family groups wondering just how far the president is willing to go.
“What the president said is confusing, and some will find it hard to distinguish from Howard Dean, who supported domestic partnerships in Vermont at the state level,” said Gary Bauer, president of American Values, a conservative interest group.
“I hope the president will make a direct statement that he opposes same-sex marriage and fake marriage, and leave to the states only contractual issues like inheritance,” Mr. Bauer said.
Domestic partnerships or civil unions afford some or all legal rights of marriage without being actually designated a marriage.
Mr. Bush didn’t endorse any specific proposal, but his remarks seemed to mirror an amendment pending in the House and Senate.
It reads, in part: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and one of the co-sponsors in the Senate, called the president’s statement “a major step forward” because, before now, the president had only said he would explore what was necessary.
He said in crafting a constitutional amendment, legislators want something simple and clear, and that would be difficult to do while also addressing issues of benefits to same-sex couples.