Tuesday, February 24, 2004

President Bush announced yesterday that he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage,” and urged Congress to “promptly pass” such an amendment and send it to the states for ratification. In recent months, the assault on traditional marriage has intensified, most egregiously with the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s May ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage, and San Francisco officials have issued marriage licenses to hundreds of homosexual couples over the past two weeks. An amendment to the Constitution is needed to stop the lawlessness over marriage.

Mr. Bush noted that federal law already defines marriage as “the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The Defense of Marriage Act, which became law eight years ago, was enacted overwhelmingly by Congress, with margins of 342-67 in the House and 85-14 in the Senate. Public opinion polls show similarly high support among Americans for defending marriage. In poll after poll, Americans oppose legalizing same-sex “marriage” by a margin of two to one. According to polls by the Associated Press, a majority opposes civil unions as well; the public is split over whether homosexual relations should be legal at all. Americans are never enthusiastic about amending the Constitution.

An amendment is needed now because aggressive judges and bureaucrats are making new law out of thin air. Laws defining marriage as between a man and woman, enacted in 38 states, are being overturned by judges and ignored by city and county officials. These same judges could mandate that liberal same-sex allowances in some states must be recognized in all states. A constitutional amendment would prevent this and make clear that same-sex unions could not be called marriages in any state. It wouldn’t stop much else. States could still pass laws recognizing all of the legal benefits of marriage in same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Politics play a role in this debate, which is, of course, what our system is all about. As activists stepped up their offensive for same-sex “marriages,” Mr. Bush’s conservative base expected him to weigh in. And after a dispiriting few weeks of bad news for the president, for example, about excessive government spending and an increase in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, it became important for the president to reassure his most loyal friends that he was listening to them.

The push for a constitutional amendment defending traditional marriage is likely to help Republicans this fall. With the amendment in the public eye, the Democratic nominee will be forced to take one of two positions. He could oppose the amendment and go against the wishes of the majority of Americans and risk losing swing voters, or by taking Mr. Bush’s position risk alienating elements of his leftist base. Either decision could make the difference in a close election. If John Kerry is the Democratic nominee, he could be hurt by his origins in liberal Massachusetts, which is friendly to the homosexual agenda.

Mr. Bush’s decision to back the constitutional amendment defending marriage is good for the moral standing of the country — and smart politics. There is nothing cynical about the president’s endorsement of this amendment. Both his Christian faith and personal judgment long ago led him to the commonsensical conclusion that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

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