Gay marriage, civil rights and the Rose Garden event that wasn't

"It was not changed," Tony Snow says. "But some people were misled."

Published June 5, 2006 6:45PM (EDT)

Is George W. Bush feeling a little sheepish about all this gay marriage business?

As we noted earlier today, the president was to hold an event in the White House Rose Garden today to promote a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. At least, that's where leaders of the religious right were told that the event would be held. But at some point in the last few days, the event found itself busted back to a meeting inside the White House Roosevelt Room and a short presidential speech inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

As Cox Newspapers' Ken Herman reports, Tony Snow was asked today why the event had been moved. "It wasn't moved is the answer," he said. Snow said that the invitations -- the ones inviting folks to an event in the White House Rose Garden -- had gone out "preliminarily before the president had an opportunity to examine the schedule and before people had signed off on it." So the meeting location was changed after the invitations went out? "It was not changed," Snow said. "But some people were misled."

OK, then, but why relegate the presidential speech to Room 450 in the EEOB? "I think Room 450 is an appropriate venue for the event," Snow said.

It seems that Snow was just getting warmed up. We just received our copy of the transcript from today's White House press briefing, and we see that the new press secretary has just managed to equate the Federal Marriage Amendment with "civil rights" legislation from the past. The exchange:

Question: There is some criticism that the president's remarks today are merely intended to energize conservative supporters since there is little likelihood this is going to pass in the Senate. What's your response to that?

Snow: Well, the response is ... this is driven in many ways by the legislative calendar. The president is making his views known. Whether it passes or not, as you know, Terry, there have been a number of cases where civil rights matters have arisen on a number of occasions and they've been brought up for repeated consideration by the United States Senate and other legislative bodies.

Somebody followed up a bit later by asking Snow if he really meant to compare the Federal Marriage Amendment to "various civil rights measures" that have come before Congress. "Is this a civil right?" the reporter asked.

Snow: Marriage? It actually -- what we're really talking about here is an attempt to try to maintain the traditional meaning of an institution that has maintained one meaning for a period of centuries, and for...

Question: Do you equate that with civil rights?

Snow: No, I'm just saying, I think -- well, I don't know. How do you define civil rights?

Question: It's not up to me; up to you.

Snow: Well, no, it's your question. So I need to get a more precise definition.

Here's one that might help.

By Tim Grieve

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

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