By Shea Howell
In an effort to solidify the right wing base that brought him to power, George Bush announced his support for a U.S. constitutional amendment barring same sex marriages. Bush’s effort to court the Latino vote with so-called immigration reform has upset many of these supporters, as has his ever-expanding deficit. Now he hopes to renew this base by becoming the first president in more than a century to advocate using the U.S. Constitution to restrict the rights of people. For his own political gain he wants to take the document that has provided the basis for every progressive social movement in this country and strip it of its meaning. He wants to use it to enshrine narrow prejudice and to justify discrimination. He is willing to do this over the dead bodies of gay and lesbian people.
A decade ago the right wing launched a much less vicious assault in a number of states, pushing amendments and propositions to restrict gay participation in political life. The one unmistakable lesson from all those battles was that in every single state faced with these initiatives, violence against gay and lesbian people increased dramatically. As anti- gay activists launched into their arguments, they unleashed a torrent of hate based on distorted religious doctrine and outright lies, linking gay men and women to all kinds of horrors. They created a well-financed, ugly public debate with consequences for the lives of lesbians and gay men and youth.
This new assault, backed by the power of the President and a huge war chest, will be equally ugly. Currently, gay and lesbian people have no civil rights protection at the federal level and none in Michigan. We are not included under Michigan civil rights law nor under Michigan hate crimes legislation. Over 30% of all teen suicides are related to young people questioning their sexual identity. Over 80% of gay youth report severe isolation in schools. Nearly half of all gay male high school students report verbal or physical harassment. More than half of all high school students report hearing homophobic comments made by school staff. Nationally-reported hate crimes rank gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as the third largest target of violence, often extreme in its viciousness.
These are the ugly realities that George W. Bush is willing to intensify in hopes of re-energizing his right wing base.
Without the right to marry, people in same sex relationships are denied over 1000 benefits that come to married, heterosexual couples. These include the right to visit your partner in the hospital, to make medical decisions for their care, and to adopt children to develop loving families. More than these benefits, without the right to marry, people in same sex relationships are denied the vast network of social supports that encourage and sustain couples as they go through life caring for one another.
George Bush has shown uncommon callousness to the consequences of his decisions. He has created war on distant people, destroying countless lives for no reason. He has turned the worldÕs good will for the United States after 9-11 into resentment and hate. He has violated this nationÕs deepest traditions for fairness by asking the Supreme Court to overturn Affirmative Action. He has destroyed our economy and told us not to worry. Now he is willing to sacrifice the life and safety of some of the most vulnerable among us as he fuels the hatred of right wing extremists. Is this really the kind of America we want?