After dismissing the likelihood of Senate passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment, President George W. Bush is suddenly promoting the idea again.
The about-face shows the continuing influence of the Religious Right on the White House, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
During his State of the Union address Feb. 2, Bush said, "Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be redefined by activist judges. For the good of families, children and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage."
Americans United criticized the president's remarks.
"The election is over," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The president can stop pandering to the Religious Right by promising to rewrite our Constitution to meet the demands of extremists like James Dobson and his band of TV preacher pals."
Bush was less enthusiastic about the amendment before the speech. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Bush dismissed talk of an amendment, saying it would never pass the Senate. He said the same thing during a meeting with black conservatives a few days later.
Bush's tepid support for the amendment infuriated Religious Right leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Dobson and his allies in the "Arlington Group," a coalition of major Religious Right activists, sent Bush political advisor Karl Rove a stern letter Jan. 18 demanding a change in course. The religious conservatives threatened to refuse to support Bush's controversial Social Security plan unless the president actively pushed for a marriage amendment.
In the State of the Union two weeks later, Bush adopted the Religious Right line. In the speech, he also reflected Religious Right views on stem-cell research, abortion and the "faith-based" initiative. Lynn said polls show that most Americans do not support altering the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
"The Religious Right treats our Constitution like a first draft," said Lynn. "They are eager to tack on all of their pet notions and turn their theological perspectives into the law of the land."
Continued Lynn, "The unholy matrimony of George Bush and the Religious Right threatens the rights of all Americans. It's time for a divorce."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.