The Battle Over Gay Marriage and Bush's Christian Fascist Agenda

Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at

On September 29, California’s governor, Arnold “The Discriminator” Schwarzenegger, vetoed a bill that would have legalized the most basic right of lesbian and gay couples to marry. He invoked “the will of the people” in his veto, citing a five-year-old “referendum” against gay marriage in California, even though both houses of the California legislature voted in favor of the bill.

But this is a question of basic rights that goes beyond the results of any vote. The Human Rights Campaign has identified 1,138 legal rights denied to gay and lesbian couples, even those in civil unions. Hospital visitation rights and the right to make medical decisions for your partner; custody rights in the case of death or a breakup; the ability to be covered by your partner’s health insurance; the right to sponsor your partner to come to the United States if they are an immigrant; the ability to inherit your partner’s property if they die without a will; Social Security and tax benefits--all these are denied to same-sex couples.

When he vetoed the gay marriage bill, Schwartzenegger issued a statement saying that “I believe that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationships.” But bigger forces were operating than Schwarzenegger’s own inclinations. Arnold came into office as a Republican and the Republican Party “has become a Party of theocracy.” And that’s a quote from “moderate” Republican congressman Christopher Shays. Central to that theocratic agenda is drawing a line in the sand around gay marriage.

“On so many fronts that is where we are as a nation these days: divided, clearly and seemingly unbridgeable, in sensibility, values, foundations, even sense of humor.”

Russell Shorto writing about the battle over gay marriage
(New York Times, “What’s Their Real Problem with Gay Marriage? [It’s the Gay Part.]” 6/19/05)

The battle over gay marriage reveals a deep rift in American society. On one side, times and attitudes are changing. Not just San Francisco and New York City, but places like Boise, Idaho; Pueblo, Colorado; and Jacksonville, Florida have gay pride events. Historian and sociologist Stephanie Coontz estimates that in the U.S. today, five million children are being raised by lesbian and gay parents. And as people interact with each other, long-held prejudices and stereotypes are beginning to break down. A poll taken in September of 2005 showed that Californians, for instance, were evenly split on whether or not to support gay marriage.

Underlying all this, huge changes in the world have worked to undermine economic and social underpinnings of the traditional “Father Knows Best” family. (See “Changes in the World and the ‘Clash of Civilizations’--Within This Civilization” by Bob Avakian, page 8.)

These changes, and the courageous stand of many lesbians and gays to come out of the closet, have opened minds and changed public attitudes. And they have been met with a vicious backlash by the forces of Christian fundamentalist theocracy.

When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began marrying gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco, George W. Bush attacked this as tampering with “the most fundamental institution of civilization.” And in the midst of his election campaign, Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Bush claimed that the amendment was needed to “protect marriage in America.” Like many other Bushisms, this statement appeared to be simply stupid (as if same-sex marriage presented a threat to heterosexual marriage) but actually pandered to and unleashed an audience that absorbs his utterings through the prism of a literal interpretation of the Bible, and sees the “spread” of homosexuality as an “unnatural” attack on their core beliefs and core institutions--with the traditional family at the center.

The ignorance and stereotypes spread by these fundamentalists manifests itself in brutality and murder--like the beating deaths of Matthew Shepard and Gwen Arroyo, and even upholding that violence as self-defense (in the case of Matthew’s murderers) or claiming that Gwen’s murderers were driven by supposedly justifiable anger.

Gay Marriage and the Battle to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Many who uphold the right to gay marriage see it as a personal issue. And, of course, on one level, it certainly is. Regardless of the silly accusations of the fundamentalists, nobody is forcing anyone to be gay. And, it has been the case that many people have adopted more enlightened attitudes towards lesbians and gays because of personal friendships and interactions.

All that is important. But we’re up against a much bigger problem. The struggle for equality, including for the right to gay marriage, is running into a brick wall of extreme, right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity that has its man in the White House. Take a close look at how that side defines the battle:

Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America, declared that the problem with gay marriage is that “People feel liberated….they feel like they don’t have to go along with this stuff anymore …”

Steve Crampton, chief counsel of the American Family Association’s Center for Law and Policy, said voting to legalize gay marriage was like “the godless French revolution.”

James Dobson, leader of Focus On the Family, writes in his book Marriage Under Fire: “[T]he institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability.”[our emphasis]

This James Dobson is not just a raving Christian fundamentalist whose radio commentaries are heard by 200 million people a day worldwide. Writing in Slate, Michael Crowley describes Dobson as a “Republican kingmaker,” who “may have delivered Bush his victories in Ohio and Florida.”

Esther Kaplan’s book With God on Their Side details just how deeply these theocratic Christian fundamentalists are embedded in the Bush regime. Take Lieutenant General William Boykin. During a church service in October 2003, he declared that Bush was “in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this.” Boykin is also infamous for statements like “Satan wants to destroy this nation… and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” Boykin is now Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the Bush regime!

Bush has people running AIDS programs who think homosexuality is a sin, and that young people should be taught abstinence, not safe sex. Kaplan’s book documents how Bush appointed members of Concerned Women for America to replace the American Medical Association as official delegates to the UN, in an attempt to undermine the workings of the world’s second largest family planning organization, the UN Population Fund. Kaplan describes their role in demanding an anti-abortion position in the name of “right to life” yet “while at the same time fighting against any resolutions that would exempt children under eighteen from the death penalty.” And Bush sent a leader of Concerned Women for America to an HIV prevention meeting in December 2002, where he told a member of the National Minority AIDS Council, “I think you [referring to gay men] are sick and demented.”

Drawing a line in the sand against gay marriage is a bedrock element of the Bush regime package. Bush’s “Brain,” Karl Rove, orchestrated anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments and referendums in eleven states last November 2, pandering to and mobilizing a social base for a Christian fascist agenda, and setting terms for the debate. Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warned West Virginia voters that the Bible would be prohibited and men will marry men unless Bush was “re-elected.”

Where is the Democratic Party and its national leaders in this battle? California Senator Dianne Feinstein complained that when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed lesbian and gay couples to marry, it was “too much, too fast, too soon.” And even openly gay Representative Barney Frank said, “The more you do, the more opposition you provoke.” That is exactly wrong--and suicidal! The progress that has been won so far in the battle for equality for gays and lesbians has come because people pushed and fought. How does telling people to “just concentrate on the fights you can win,” as Frank advised, lead anywhere but back into the closet-- and far worse? And this is all the more true when you confront Bush’s agenda.

George Bush right now is pushing a nationwide campaign for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw any state from legalizing gay marriage, regardless of state court decisions or legislative action. This, along with the whole Bush agenda, is intolerable. It won’t do to wait three more years and hope that maybe a “Bush lite” comes in. That’s way too little, and way too late! There is a spirit to learn from in the determination of gays and lesbians to step out with pride, and that must be a force that merges with other sections of society to drive out the Bush regime--starting with mobilizing on November 2.