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1.15.2004

A piece on proposed marriage legislation in which all sides look really dumb 

From the New York Times:



Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive for Promotion of Marriage
By ROBERT PEAR
and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

Published: January 14, 2004


WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — Administration officials say they are planning an extensive election-year initiative to promote marriage, especially among low-income couples, and they are weighing whether President Bush should promote the plan next week in his State of the Union address.

For months, administration officials have worked with conservative groups on the proposal, which would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain "healthy marriages."



Yeesh. Is our species in such dire shape that we need the government to run TV ads and hold seminars (at taxpayers' expense) to teach us how to live in happy marriages?

Well, maybe, but I still think it's a silly idea.



The officials said they believed that the measure was especially timely because they were facing pressure from conservatives eager to see the federal government defend traditional marriage, after a decision by the highest court in Massachusetts. The court ruled in November that gay couples had a right to marry under the state's Constitution.

"This is a way for the president to address the concerns of conservatives and to solidify his conservative base," a presidential adviser said.



Okay, so Bush is pandering to conservatives. Well, at least he's being up front about it.



The president's proposal may not be enough, though, for some conservative groups that are pushing for a more emphatic statement from him opposing gay marriage.

"We have a hard time understanding why the reserve," said Glenn T. Stanton, a policy analyst at Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization. "You see him inching in the right direction. But the question for us is, why this inching? Why not just get there?"

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of a national group called the Traditional Values Coalition, has started an e-mail campaign urging Mr. Bush to push for an amendment opposing the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Other groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, are pushing more quietly for the same thing, through contacts with White House officials, especially Karl Rove, the president's chief political aide, who has taken a personal interest in maintaining contacts with evangelical groups.

In an interview with ABC News last month, Mr. Bush was asked if he would support a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and gay civil unions.

"If necessary," he said, "I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that, and will — the position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state, or does start at the state level."



This last paragraph does belong in a collection of Bushisms, instead of all those out-of-context quotes that Slate usually posts. The whole point of a constitutional amendment is to enact a federal law that is otherwise stipulated to be exclusively a states' matter. That is, 38 states can dictate to the other twelve that gay "marriage" is "illegal".

I can't imagine that a constitutional amendment banning gay "marriage" or "defining" "marriage" to be a union between a man and a woman would have any real effect, either. If enough people support the idea, some state legislature will figure out a way to legalize gay unions. As far as I can see, the only effect of such an amendment, or the proposal of such an amendment, would be political. And it wouldn't be a positive effect.

All right, so far the conservatives look really patronizing and intolerant at this point. But a few paragraphs later, the civil liberties pinheads have to chime in:



Some women's groups like the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund oppose government programs that promote marriage. "Such programs intrude on personal privacy, may ignore the risk of domestic violence and may coerce women to marry," said Timothy J. Casey, a lawyer at the fund.



That comment doesn't even deserve to be heckled.

So we have a piece on a controversial issue on which everybody looks really dumb. I wish it'd happen more often.

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