Bush pushes same-sex marriage ban
In radio address, president touts constitutional amendment
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day after Congress began debating a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman, President Bush took to the airwaves Saturday to promote the issue.
Opponents of the legislation accuse Republicans of forcing the issue to the Senate floor to fire up religious conservatives in support of Bush before the November election.
During his weekly broadcast address, Bush blamed "a few activist judges and local officials who have taken it on themselves to change the meaning of marriage" for pushing the matter to the forefront.
"In Massachusetts, four judges on the state's highest court have ordered the issuance of marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender," the president said, referring to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in 2003 that denial of marriage rights to gays and lesbians violated their civil rights.
"In San Francisco, city officials issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender, contrary to the California family code."
Bush said that "marriage is the basis of an orderly society, and the defining promise of a life."
He did not use the words "gay" or "lesbian" in his address.
"If courts create their own arbitrary definition of marriage as a mere legal contract and cut marriage off from its cultural, religious and natural roots, then the meaning of marriage is lost, and the institution is weakened," he said.
"For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that traditional marriage is critical to the well-being of families.
"And because families pass along values and shape character, traditional marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of traditional marriage will undermine the family structure."
Bush urged civility in the debate, saying that "all people deserve to have their voices heard."
Several local governments have passed legislation allowing same gender marriages, and lawsuits may be forcing several states to do the same, as happened in Massachusetts.
In 1996, responding to a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for the purpose of federal law.
But Bush said that act was not enough to counteract judges insisting "on imposing their arbitrary will on the people."
The president said such an amendment should be passed because it is "the only law a court cannot overturn."