With his “political capital” exhausted and approval ratings in the toilet, President George W. Bush Saturday returned to an extremist right-wing agenda, urging the Senate to pass a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage — an obvious congressional election-year pitch to conservatives whose enthusiasm for him has cooled.
Bush plans to follow up his Saturday remarks with a White House event on Monday to promote the anti-gay marriage amendment and other conservative agenda items but the President’s once-solid conservative base isn’t buying the new Bush.
“I’m going to go and hear what he says, but we already know it is a ruse,” Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network, which opposes gay marriage, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re not buying it. We’re going to go and watch the dog-and-pony show, [but] it’s too little, too late.”
The Senate next week plans to debate a proposed amendment against gay marriage, though it is believed to have little chance of passing.
“Marriage is the most enduring and important human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.
“Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.”
Bush said a constitutional amendment was needed to keep “activist” judges from overturning efforts by some state legislatures to ban gay marriage.
But Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, accused Bush of using the radio address to “appease his right-wing conservative base.”
“At a time when Americans are tuning in to hear about issues they care about, he chose to spend the time advocating writing discrimination into the Constitution.”
Bush spoke out in favor of a ban on gay marriage during the 2004 presidential election race, when the issue’s appearance on local ballots helped turn out Republican supporters in key states, but some conservatives complain that he has done little more than talk about it.
He is raising his profile on the issue as he grapples with approval ratings near 30 percent, a low for his presidency.
Bush once could count on overwhelming conservative support but the Iraq war and several political blunders have cost him some of that backing, leaving many Republicans fearful of losing control of Congress to Democrats in November.
Bush’s wife, Laura, has said she did not think the gay-marriage issue should be used to score political points in an election year.
“I don’t think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously,” Laura Bush told Fox news in a mid-May interview. “But I do think it’s something that people in the United States want to debate.”
Bush plans to promote the marriage amendment again on Monday in a White House meeting with community leaders, constitutional scholars and clergy who support the ban on same-sex unions.
Bush cited four states, Washington, California, Maryland and New York, in which he said local courts had “overturned laws protecting marriage” since 2004, and pointed to a Nebraska federal judge who removed a state ban on same-sex marriage.
Gay marriage has been an increasingly divisive issue since a Massachusetts court ruled in 2003 that the state legislature could not ban it, paving the way for America’s first same-sex marriages the following year.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the amendment along party lines on May 18. But it must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority and then be approved by at least 38 states to become law. A similar measure failed in 2004.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Wayne Allard, a Colorado Republican, has acknowledged he has far fewer than the 67 votes needed to win passage.
At least 13 states have passed their own amendments banning gay marriage. Vermont and Connecticut have legalized civil unions. Just over half of all Americans oppose same-sex marriage, a March poll by the Pew Research center showed.