Home / Culture and Society / Spirituality / Senate Debate on Same-sex Marriage Poses Risks to GOP

Senate Debate on Same-sex Marriage Poses Risks to GOP

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

In a congressional election-year pitch to religious conservatives whose interests have been neglected in favor of far more pressing matters such as the war in Iraq, immigration, and the price of gasoline, President George W. Bush, in his weekly radio address, urged the Senate to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, asserting that it is needed to prevent what he refers to as “activist judges” from overturning state legislation against same-sex marriage.

The amendment would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages while leaving state legislatures free to make their own decisions about what — if any — legal accommodations, other than marriage, they will make for same-sex couples.

In order to become law, the proposed amendment needs two-thirds support in both the Senate and the House, after which it must be ratified by a minimum of 38 state legislatures.

In spite of the widespread belief that the amendment has the proverbial snowball’s chance of passing — even the bill’s sponsor, Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colorado), has acknowledged this political verisimilitude — the Senate nonetheless plans to debate the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage this week.

Democrats have said that the upcoming debate on this issue is a waste of Senate floor time, and is nothing more than a pre-midterm election appeal to social conservatives whose votes were essential to Mr. Bush’s re-election.

The Unappreciated Religious Right
Apparently Mr. Bush and several Congressional Republicans are beginning to take heed of recent threats from the religious right, hard-working political activists who, according to Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families, “[are] a major reason why the president is sitting in the Oval Office today.”

Mr. Bauer had issued an earlier warning that, if Mr. Bush doesn’t start crusading against same-sex marriage, “this is just going to be one more thing that keeps people at home on Election Day.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has also cautioned Mr. Bush, telling Fox News that the president faces “the very real potential of deflating what’s left of the GOP base. They deflated the fiscal conservatives, because of [the increases in] spending, and now they risk deflating the social conservatives by failing to act on our interests.”

Enter The Moderates
While Mr. Bush and several socially conservative Republican Senators have pushed for the marriage amendment, a number of other Republican voices have dissented.

Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and John Sununu (R-New Hampshire), oppose the amendment, saying that marriage is a matter that is best left to the states. Several other Republican Senators are also against the measure. Meanwhile, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is the only Democrat who has said that he will vote for the amendment.

First Lady Laura Bush, in an interview on Fox News, advised against politicizing the issue, “I don’t think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously,” she said. “It requires a lot of sensitivity to just talk about the issue — a lot of sensitivity.”

Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, said, on CNN, that “writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong.”

The vice president spelled out his position on the subject in August of 2004, “Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it’s an issue that our family is very familiar with. … With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be able to free — ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.”

However, likely being mindful that the November 2004 presidential election had not yet taken place, Mr. Cheney added, “At this point … my own preference is as I’ve stated. But the president makes basic policy for the administration. And he’s made it. ”

Incumbents Beware
Not only are the religious conservatives feeling neglected, moderate Republicans are also feeling somewhat alienated. A number of Republicans from both factions are troubled and confused by the Party’s mixed messages on the subject of same-sex marriage.

These fractures within the GOP have caused a disconcerting paradox for several vulnerable Republican incumbents whose political balancing acts will be judged at the polls this November. If they push hard on issues like the Federal Marriage Amendment, religious conservatives will likely respond favorably, but moderates who favor small government and states’ rights will be turned off.

Republican Party strategist Craig Shirley suggests that, “There is a fear, among some in the party, that the Republicans are being identified too much as a theological party.”

According to GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio, half of today’s Republicans are “theocrats” who believe government should “promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage.” And the other half wants less government intrusion into the personal lives of the people.

Mr. Fabrizio says, “We can’t afford to alienate moderate voters any more than they are already alienated… . Issues have a shelf life. Gay marriage passed everywhere [on state ballots] in 2004, but today, a lot of people look at that issue and think, ‘It is so over and done.’ Our party base is already fracturing, and if we emphasize gay marriage now, it would create new divisions.”

What The Polls Say
Recent polls show that there is far less support for amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage than there was in 2004. According to a March 22, 2006 report by Pew Research Center, 51% currently oppose the civil recognition of same-sex marriages, which is a dramatic change from the 63% who were against it in 2004. Two years ago, 59% of Republicans strongly opposed same-sex marriage, while only 41% take that position now.

Likewise, the percentage who are in favor of same-sex marriage has increased greatly from 29% in 2004 to 39% today. In June of 1996, just 27% favored legalizing same-sex marriage. Support grew to 35% in March of 2001, and increased to 38% in the summer of 2003.

That widening support fell away in February 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court recognized homosexuals’ right to marriage. The subsequent debates over that historic decision sparked a temporary resurgence in opposition, which did not last long after the 2004 election.

A national debate on same-sex marriage could potentially cause a backlash against socially conservative Republicans, who may be perceived as giving priority to an issue moderates find unimportant when contrasted with serious matters like the war in Iraq, immigration, and the price of gasoline. Same-sex marriage didn’t even make the top 20 in a recent Fox News poll of issues about which Americans are most concerned.

Furthermore, a study by a conservative-leaning research center, the American Enterprise Institute, observed that public opinion has become increasingly more accepting of homosexuality.

Pew Research has also found this to be the case. In addition to shifting public sentiment toward same-sex marriage, they report that 46% are in favor of allowing gay and lesbian people to adopt children, up from 38% in 1999. And the American people support, by a wide margin of 60% to 32%, a policy that allows homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

Powered by

About Margaret Romao Toigo

  • JP

    The religious right is correct to view this as pandering. Of course, it might just work for the GOP.

  • Indeed, it just might work, JP. But it is a risk nonetheless as those cracks in the GOP base have gotten bigger and more noticeable in years since Mr. Bush’s re-election.

    First there was the miscalculation about how the American people felt about the Terry Schiavo case, then there was the controversy over the mishandling of the hurricane Katrina disaster, and, during all of that, the various troubles that have overshadowed triumphs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Then came the immigration reform debates, which really highlighted the divisions in the Republican Party. And now same-sex marriage enters the picture, which pleases the religious conservatives while displeasing the moderates who value states’ rights and individual freedom.

    My advice to Republican incumbents would be to tread lightly while paying close attention to their individual constituencies. I do not envy any of those folks, for they will need to perform political tightrope acts without the benefit of safety nets.

    While I strongly disagree with the Christian dominionism of the religious right, I do admire their dedication to their causes and their ability to motivate themselves into action. They make up a little less than 10% of the American population, but nearly all of them vote!

    Would it were if certain other movements and voting blocs were as galvanized as they are…

  • cheryl m

    Well I just dont see what all the huff is about. I really think it should be up to the person that your with either a female or male. who really cares what goes on in someone else’s bedroom. I know I dont I have a healthy sex life with my husband. I just dont see why our goverment needs to be in the bedroom with anyone else. I think they can get into enough trouble without going there.

    It is just plain none of anyone else’s business who I or anyone else has sex with or gets married to.

    Our goverment needs to learn that it is not the end all be all of what ever they want it to be. They should really learn to just stay out of other peoples business.

  • Doug Gustafson

    But…this is Mr. Bush’s second term, he cant be reelected…

  • Joe Collina

    Is this really the biggest problem we have in the USA? No wonder Congress and the White House are deemed useless by the man on the street.

  • Indeed, Mr. Gustafson, President Bush cannot run for re-election. However, he is still president as well as a member of the Republican Party and, as such, he is obliged to do everything he can to help the GOP to retain its current majority in the Congress, for if the Democrats manage to take over the Senate or the House or both, Mr. Bush and certain other members of his administration are likely going to find themselves in some pretty hot water.

    You are correct, Mr. Collina, this debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment is a pointless waste of time (it has no chance whatsoever of passing) when there far more pressing matters that need our Senators’ attention.

    I believe that it will be seen for exactly what it is: pandering to religious conservatives who think that preventing the government from recognizing homosexuals’ right to civil marriage is more important than issues like the war in Iraq, immigration, and the price of gasoline — and I think it’s going to backfire for precisely that reason.

  • Perhaps the upcoming election should be a referrendum on the President. If people feel that he sucks at his job then it’s time to cast a ballot for anyone but the Republican candidate. The GOP has been taken hostage by a fanatical base and they must be obliterated.

  • More importantly, it might work against the Democrats. That Bush got a second term, despite widespread dissapproval for his handling of the war in Iraq, only demonstrates that most of America is concerned abou this issue.

  • Yes, Mr. Adams, but that was then, this is now. It was not until about mid-2005 that the American people started to become increasingly disenchanted with the war Iraq.

    Look at the polls. For most of America, the issue of same-sex marriage doesn’t even register in comparison to the price of gasoline, the immigration issue, our troubles in Iraq and our potential upcoming troubles with Iran.

  • kd

    This is not news. This is government spawned propaganda, to steer away from government spending, immigration, massacres in Iraq…

    Im not stupid come on… must be elections coming up

  • Well, kd, I think “government spawned propaganda, to steer away from government spending, immigration, massacres in Iraq…” is news.

    And everybody, including the folks who are pushing hard for this amendment, knows that it’s just a mid-term election year ploy to fire up the GOP’s religious conservative base.

    It will be interesting to see whether or not it works. I don’t think it will.

  • Unfortunately it may well benefit the ultra Right. Gays and basic human rights for gays make great fodder for the perpetuation of the hate fags factor in America. Blame all the ills of the country on dem damn queers.

    Perhaps the GLBT community should take a lesson out of the Paul Revere playbook. It’s time for a revolution — a nationwide Stonewall, if you will. Maybe it’s time to pump up the rhetoric to a fevered pitch. Has anyone considered that these GOP politicians who support a Constitutional ban on gay marriage have MORE in common with Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Party than with those Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War?

    Finally, I never thought I would live to say this but the Conservatives have crossed that fragile line. Perhaps it’s time to be a bit more Neanderthal in how we react to the anti-gay forces. Outting is a great place to start. You show me an ultra conservative male who lives for the destruction of queers and I’ll show you a good ol’ Southern boy who’s got fantasies about playin’ nekkid with the boys from the Dukes of Hazard.

  • But Silas, there are entire websites dedicated to outing people like Rove and Mehlman, with pretty good documentation and evidence on them, including testimony from former roomates and people who’ve seen them at gay bars, and no one in the GOP or out of it really gives a rat’s ass.


  • Arch Conservative

    Silas….who in this post is blaming gays for the nation’s problems?

    It’s the ultra left that are the root of this nation’s problems…..shit……..I’ll take a gay conservative who wants to cut taxes and kick some terrorist ass over a straight leftist moonbat any day…..

    It is nice to see how you and the rest of the clan on BC equate every conservative who is anti-gay marriage with the guy’s that dragged Matthew Shepard behing their pickup truck though. That’s extremely insightful of you. Keep up the good work.

  • It’s the ultra left that are the root of this nation’s problems…..shit……..I’ll take a gay conservative who wants to cut taxes and kick some terrorist ass over a straight leftist moonbat any day…..

    Perfectly said, AC. You have just expressed exactly why the GOP continues to work together. You’re willing to put up with the gays and I’m willing to put up with the religious nutbags so long as well agree on certain other basic principles.


  • RogerMDillon

    “I’ll take a gay conservative”

    Yeah, I’ve heard that about you.

  • Fantasizing again Roger?

  • RogerMDillon

    “no one in the GOP or out of it really gives a rat’s ass.”

    That’s because their winning and keep it in the closet. Take a few losses and a night at a bath house highlighted on Drudge and then we’ll see how tolerant the right is.

  • Okay, so I see you have been… and thought it all the way through too!

  • Roger, you keep believing what the democrats and the SWP tell you and you’ll keep saying silly stuff like #18. The fact is that the GOP is and always has been the party of the ‘Big Tent’ and of tolerance of everyone, and that hasn’t changed as far as the party is concerned.


  • boy Dave don’t do that you’re going to strip the gears in your new transmission! The anti gay marraige amendment doesn’t sound like something from that big tent, it sounds like the elephant shit they shovel out after the circus!

    Solus mei sententia

  • Arch Conservative

    “I’ll take a gay conservative”

    Yeah, I’ve heard that about you.

    Gee if I said something that demeaned homosexuals such as that I would have been critisized but Roger says it and it’s ha has and hee hees.

  • The GOP has a ‘ignore the pandering’ card, kind of like a ‘get out of jail free’ card in Monopoly.


  • ArchBingBat you’ve proved repeatedly what your attitude is to the point where we know when we’re being kidded and when we’re being insulted.

    With you it’s a no brainer, I give everyone else good-natured benifit of the doubt.

    You have a proven track record and everyone knows it.

  • RogerMDillon

    Jet, I’m not clear what you are talking about, but I’ll wait until the meds kick in and read it later.

    Dave, I haven’t been told anything by the democrats and I’m guessing SWP is Socialist Workers, but haven’t heard from them either, so spare the nonsense.

    The GOP has been winning and Rove and Mehlman are in the closet. Is that not true? Please show me the interview where either men states their sexuality for the record. I’ll expect it after your piece about all the african-amercians the republicans were running this year which you claimed to be working on. It must be quite a list for you to be taking so long with it.

    The Tent is open if you shut your mouth and do what you are told. Are there any openly gay or lesbian Republicans running this year? I know you don’t want to admit your party’s foibles, but their your dance partner, so deal with it.

    “Gee if I said something that demeaned homosexuals”

    What are you talking about? How does that demean homosexuals? If anything, it demeans you–oh wait, now I get it.

  • FarrrrrFucinnnnnnnnnOuttttmMannnnnnnnn!

    The last paragraph of comment 22 is what 24 if refering to or reefering……. oh dude cooooool

  • “It is nice to see how you and the rest of the clan on BC equate every conservative who is anti-gay marriage with the guy’s that dragged Matthew Shepard behing their pickup truck though. That’s extremely insightful of you. Keep up the good work.”

    Well, with all due respect, every backwoods Conservative bigot who has contemplated “beating a fag” or actually inflicted verbal or physical violence shared in the murder of Matthew Shepard. All the militant fag bashers who have done their best to reduce gay people to dirt are part of the problem that led to his brutal murder. Personally, I’m at the point where I’d love nothing more than to hog tie a fag basher and drag him with my pickup truck through the desert. I won’t do it because it is against the law and immoral.

    “The GOP has been winning and Rove and Mehlman are in the closet. Is that not true? Please show me the interview where either men states their sexuality for the record.”

    Well, it’s been my experience that self loathing closeted homosexuals are at the front of the line in promoting bigotry, intolerance and downright hatred. That being said, I pray to God that neither piece of human waste is gay in any way, shape or form. That may cause me to undergo shock therapy. Perhaps sheep would be the way to go.

  • Arch Conservative


    when’s the last time you saw a conservative commentator on BC talking about how much they wanted to “beat a fag?” I don’t recall ever seeing it.

    Jet says

    “You have a proven track record and everyone knows it.”

    When you’re right you’re right Jet. I genuinely abhor the far left in this nation and everything they stand for.

  • Silas, I’m not sure there’s any evidence to suggest that fag-bashing bigots are necessarily politically conservative. Their political orientation and their homophobia are probably not all that closely related.


  • zingzing

    most people who would beat a homosexual are so dumb they probably can’t read. but show me one person who identifies as liberal on this site who is “anti-gay,” as bing puts it. then write down a list of those who are conservative. then think about what you just said. then realize that, since you are an editor, you should go ahead and edit your comment out of existence.

    when someone (like the motherfuckin president) says something anti-gay, it just adds to the hatred felt towards homosexuals in this country. bush and his cronies are in a posistion of power and should realize that the things they do and say hurt people.

  • Gorge W. Bush doesn’t hate gays. He could care less one way or the other. He knows that he needs his Conservative base in order to stay politically afloat. The Conservatives will be like rabid bats keeping him in power so long as he panders to their every whim. He’s good at smokescreens. He’s a good salesman. Don’t count George out yet. He’s got plenty of tricks up his sleeve and Karl Rove kneeling in front of his fly.