July 31, 2003

I DIDN’T WATCH BUSH YESTERDAY, but his remarks on gay marriage angered Roger Simon, though Simon calmed down a bit in response to comments on his blog. (Read ‘em — they’re interesting). Andrew Sullivan was initially confused, then upon reflection unhappy.

I’m against a federal constitutional amendment to prevent gay marriage, though it’s not entirely clear to me that Bush is for one. Certainly support for such a move would violate Bush’s professed principles of federalism — but the Administration has been willing to violate those principles in other areas, such as cloning.

I wonder if such an amendment would pass. If it were attempted, and failed, it would be a good thing for supporters of gay marriage. But I don’t have a clear idea of the prospects for passage. It’s certainly true that gay marriage has less popular support than you might think from coverage in the the pro-gay media (like, you know, InstaPundit). Most Americans, I think, are increasingly comfortable with gay people, but not as comfortable with the idea that gayness itself is truly acceptable. That’s changing, but the process is still underway. That means that there’s a lot of support for non-discrimination, but a lot less support for things seen as “mainstreaming” gays, or at least gayness. On the other hand, I suspect that this ambivalence translates into weak support for affirmative action against gays, too, but I don’t know how that would shake out in terms of a battle over a constitutional amendment.

I’m not sure anyone else does, either, which makes me doubt that canny politicians would want to bring this to a head. But I could be wrong.

UPDATE: Nick Gillespie has more on the subject, including this observation:

As liberals gear up to bash Bush for his reactionary thinking on this point, they ought to remember the actions of the only twice-elected Democrat president since FDR. When Bill Clinton signed The Defense of Marriage Act in September 1996–an act specifically intended to foreclose state recognition of same-sex marriages–he noted that he had “long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages.”

While Bush’s position is no surprise, new Gallup polls on attitudes toward homosexuals are: Over the past two months, support for gay relations between consenting adults is taking a dive, as is support for same-sex unions.

Yes, Clinton was hardly a progressive on this issue. As for the “backlash,” well, I think it’s probably exaggerated. It’s worth noticing that less than twenty years ago the Supreme Court affirmed that it was okay to send gay people to jail for life just for having sex. Now the question is whether gay marriage should be permitted. That’s quite rapid progress.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Gebert emails:

I hope some politicians realize that while you would have had the public support and the votes to pass, say, a Segregation Amendment in 1953, it would have been the last moment in history when you did, and very soon it would have been disastrous for the party that had pushed it.

And for the country.