Bush wants marriage reserved for heterosexuals
'We ought to codify that'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush indicated Wednesday he opposes extending marriage rights to homosexuals, saying he believes marriage "is between a man and a woman."
Bush said it is "important for society to welcome each individual," but administration lawyers are looking for some way to legally limit marriage to heterosexuals.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another," Bush told reporters at a White House news conference. "And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."
Bush's comments drew praise from conservative groups, but criticism from gay rights advocates.
"The president has taken a courageous stand in favor of traditional marriage at a moment in American history when the courts are conspiring with anti-family extremists to undermine our nation's most vital institution," said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.
But a spokeswoman for a gay rights group faulted the president.
"We are very disappointed that the president is trying to further codify discrimination into law," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group.
Earlier this month, Bush said a constitutional amendment to block gay marriages might not be necessary, although the proposal has the support of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee.
The question of gay marriage has moved to the foreground of American politics after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that struck down state laws banning sodomy. Canada courts also have recently recognized gay marriages. In addition, the Massachusetts high court is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether the state can allow gay marriages.
The prospect has outraged religious conservatives, an important voting bloc in the Republican Party. And a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll suggest the Supreme Court ruling has prompted a backlash: The number of people who have endorsed the idea that homosexual relations should be legal has dropped from 60 percent to 48 percent since the ruling, and only 40 percent of Americans say they now would support civil unions for homosexuals.
Even as he made it clear that he did not support the idea of gay marriage, Bush appeared to issue a call for tolerance.
"Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners," the president said Wednesday when asked for his views on homosexuality. "And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own."
"I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country," Bush added. "On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage."
A number of states have passed laws forbidding gays from marrying or barring the recognition of a same-sex marriage performed in another state. The federal government's 1996 Defense of Marriage Act affirms that states are not required to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state.
The act also defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."