Bush and gay civil unions

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by Matthew Veritas Tsien

The shrill, high-profile activists for gay marriage miserably advocate only two strategies for furthering our interests – seeking favorable liberal judicial activism and fanning the flames of hatred for President George W. Bush and all things Republican.

Some, both gay and straight Americans, have long argued that a right to gay marriage "discovered" through judicial fiat will leave gay people less secure then we are already. Many mistakenly believe that our cause is served when judicial activists either a) overturn popular referenda or b) discover previously unknown rights in the dark, secret penumbra of the U.S. or state constitutions.

For the past six years, liberals have been smarting under the sting of Bush v. Gore. Senator Hillary Clinton shamefully validated this cynicism by referring to President Bush as a "selected" president. That’s the problem with judicial activism – we’re ecstatic when the judges go our way, but bitter and scornful when they don’t. Recent judicial triumphs, even in Massachusetts , will not last.

Either through constitutional amendment or conservative Supreme Court judges willing to stare down stare decisis, the American people will ultimately have the final word. Do you really want to spend the next 20 years fighting a la Roe v. Wade for the preservation of a right "discovered" by judicial activism? Popularly enacted law is the only secure answer and that needs to be our strategy.

As for fanning the flames of Bush hatred, remember George W. Bush didn’t sign the Defense of Marriage Act or give us "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Those brilliant acts of presidential power are the legacy of your beloved Bill Clinton.

Bush, a conservative Christian, came to power with the broad support of conservatives. Our president, at political cost to him and counter to the desire of his strongest supporters, has offered several, nuanced gestures to our community. Laura Bush is no free-talking Betty Ford and the "news" that the first lady does not support a constitutional amendment was intentional. Dick Cheney and his family are similarly disciplined and the timing and content of Mary Cheney’s book tour was also intentional.

Most significant was President Bush’s own recent radio address. Although he stated his support for the constitutional amendment he also stated very clearly that "state legislatures [will] remain free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage."

This was an important, pivotal statement aimed squarely at the gay community. It was almost as if the president was saying, "Hey look, I’m a Republican, leading a country the majority of whose citizens do not now support gay marriage and supported by a base enraged by judicial activism. I can’t give you gay marriage any more than your beloved Clintons could, but your state legislatures can create civil unions – that will work!"

A conservative, Republican president has opened the door by at a minimum acknowledging the possibility of state-created civil unions. We in the gay community should take him up on this and make it happen.

Matthew Veritas Tsien is a former Washington, D.C. Correspondent and radio commentator of “The American Conservative.” He was President of the Maryland Log Cabin Republicans in the late 1990s.