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1979Bush calls for ban on gay marriage, as new poll suggests growing support

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  • umcornet
    Aug 1 4:24 AM
      July 31, 2003
      Bush calls for ban on gay marriage, as new poll suggests growing
      By Robert Marus
      Associated Baptist Press

      WASHINGTON (ABP) – President Bush joined the conservative chorus
      calling for a legal restriction against gay marriage, while new polls
      suggest public opinion may be turning in favor of such a limit.
      Religious Right leaders are hailing those developments as a double
      blow to the cause of gay rights. But gay-rights activists offer a
      different interpretation.

      Bush said July 30 that his administration is "looking at the best
      way" to protect marriage as an institution for heterosexuals only. "I
      believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we
      ought to codify that one way or the other, and we've got lawyers
      looking at the best way to do that," Bush said in his first formal
      press conference in months.

      While noting he believes "in the sanctity of marriage," Bush
      added "it's very important for our society to respect each

      "On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to
      compromise on an issue such as marriage," he said. "And that's really
      where the issue is headed here in Washington, and that is the
      definition of marriage."

      Bush did no go so far as to endorse a proposed constitutional
      amendment currently making its way through Congress, however. The
      amendment would define marriage in strictly heterosexual terms and
      would override state provisions recognizing same-sex marriage
      or "civil unions" that offer most of the same benefits of marriage
      while reserving the term itself for man-woman unions.

      Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll released July 28 seems to show a
      dramatic reversal in a long-standing trend toward greater public
      acceptance of homosexuality.

      While gay-rights supporters celebrated the June Supreme Court ruling
      that overturned state laws against gay sex, conservative observers
      say the new polling data show a backlash to the ruling from the
      American public.

      The Gallup poll of 1,006 adults, conducted in mid-July, revealed that
      48 percent of Americans believe sexual relations between consenting
      adults of the same gender should be legal, while 46 percent believe
      it should be illegal. That is a dramatic turnaround from a Gallup
      poll May 7, when 60 percent of respondents said gay sex should be
      legal and only 35 percent said it should be illegal.

      Another poll conducted earlier in July revealed a similar reversal.

      The turnaround was also evident in support for legalizing "civil
      unions," which would offer same-sex couples many of the benefits of
      marriage without using the term "marriage" to refer to the union.

      In May, equal numbers of respondents supported and opposed the idea --
      at 49 percent each. But in a more recent poll, 57 percent of
      respondents opposed legalizing gay civil unions, while only 40
      percent supported the idea. That is the strongest opposition and the
      weakest support in the seven Gallup polls taken on the subject since

      "The new polling data suggest a backlash," said the Gallup
      organization in a press release. "The discussion that followed the
      Supreme Court [sodomy] decision focused in part on whether it would
      increase the possibility of legalized gay marriage and other, more
      formal, reductions of the distinction between heterosexual and
      homosexual relations in society."

      Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs at the Family
      Research Council, said the "slumbering majority" has remained quiet
      as the gay-rights movement made gains in recent years, but she
      added, "gay marriage is the line in the sand where people are waking

      Glenn Stanton, a senior analyst for Focus on the Family, said "over-
      reaching" by various courts has forced Americans to realize that
      what "was once a pretty radical and 'out there' idea could really

      Added Gary Bauer, president of American Values: "The more that the
      [gay-rights] movement demands the endorsement of the law and the
      culture, the more resistance there will be."

      But gay-rights activists said they don't think the Gallup poll
      represents a clear backlash.

      "It just doesn't make sense," said Laura Montgomery Rutt, director of
      communications for the religious gay-rights group Soulforce. She
      pointed to a recent poll commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts
      that showed a continued increase in support for gay marriage, even
      though the poll was finished after the Supreme Court's sodomy

      Chris Purdom, co-coordinator of the Philadelphia-based Interfaith
      Working Group said, "I think the polling is all over the map on this"
      because the Supreme Court decision, as well as other recent news
      involving gay-rights issues, means people are being forced to
      confront an issue about which they haven't made up their minds.

      "I think that this is an issue that most people don't think about
      very much because they don't think it affects them," he said, "so I
      think they don't answer consistently."

      James Esseks, litigation director for the American Civil Liberties
      Union's Gay and Lesbian Rights Project, said one reason for the
      change in numbers is "that people don't understand or have a clear
      understanding of what gay marriage would mean."

      For example, Esseks said, "I think some people think that somehow gay
      marriage would intrude upon the church. … If a state recognizes
      marriage between two people of the same sex, that would not in any
      way require any religious institution to recognize it as well."

      Echoing Bush's comments, White House press secretary Scott McClellan,
      speaking to reporters July 31, also used the term "sanctity" and
      other religious terms in describing marriage. Soulforce's Rutt said
      such language is dangerous.

      "Religion currently can discriminate against people based on their
      sexual orientation or marital status. … They have that right,"
      Rutt. "But our government is based on the Constitution, and marriage
      is a civil contract between two people -- it shouldn't matter what
      their gender or sexual orientation is.

      "There needs to be a distinction between the religious ritual of
      marriage and the civil right of marriage," Rutt concluded.