Driving the wedge in Washington

By Tim Grieve
Published August 12, 2004 7:51PM (EDT)

When the Senate killed the Federal Marriage Amendment last month -- the Republican leadership couldn't even get 50 votes, let alone the 67 needed for passage -- you would have thought that was the end of the legislative effort on gay marriage for the year.

You would have been wrong. Right-wing religious groups are pushing hard for the House of Representatives to vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment in September. In the wake of the Senate's vote, any action in the House would be entirely meaningless -- unless, of course, one's goal is to keep the issue of gay marriage alive as a political weapon in November.

That's exactly what groups like the Family Research Council are trying to do. In a memo to supporters Wednesday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that the House vote "could very well shape the outcome of the fall's election."

Each week, Perkins said he'll be sending out a list of 25 members of Congress "who need to hear from those in their state who want to protect the institution of marriage." Perkins urges FRC supporters to call the representatives, to write letters to the editor and to call talk radio station, and to show up at town meetings and press their representatives on their positions.

Public campaign events are a chance for gay-marriage opponents to put members of Congress on the spot. Carefully staged Bush-Cheney events, on the other hand, give the President a chance to keep pushing the anti-gay agenda without looking like he's the one bringing it up.

At an"Ask the President" event in Arizona Wednesday afternoon, a citizen asked Bush about "the continued erosion of the moral fabric of this country -- obviously the removal of prayer in schools, the removal of the Ten Commandments, abortion, and now we're faced with the issue of gay marriage. "

Bush used the opening to talk about the "bad trend" facing America and to spread fear that judges in one state might "redefine marriage" and force their views on the people of some other state. "And so the easiest way -- not the easiest way, probably the toughest way -- but the clearest way to define marriage is to put it in the Constitution like I suggested," Bush said.

That's not going to happen this year -- and with poll numbers showing growing acceptance of gay marriage, it's not likely to happen for a long time. But that doesn't mean that Bush won't be talking about it. "What I'll do the next four years is continue to state what I believe," he said. "I'm not going to change my beliefs just because there's been an election. Quite the contrary. I will be telling people what I believe."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room