Skip to comments.Conservatives Use Gay Union as Rallying Cry
Posted on 02/07/2004 8:36:41 PM PST by neverdem
Last spring, the Rev. Donald E. Wildmon of Tupelo, Miss., decided to hold a summit meeting of the Christian conservative movement.
Mr. Wildmon felt the movement was losing the culture war, he recalled in an interview on Friday. Since plunging into political activism nearly 30 years ago, Christian conservatives had helped Republicans take control of Washington but did not have enough to show for it, Mr. Wildmon said. At the same time, the election of Republican politicians had drained some of the motivation out of its grass-roots constituents.
So Mr. Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association and a crusader against sex and violence in the media, sent an e-mail message inviting about two dozen other prominent Christian conservatives to a meeting in Arlington, Va., last June. About 14 people turned up with no set agenda, Mr. Wildmon recalled.
"All we knew was we were going to get together and see if there were some issues of concern that we could agree on and combine our efforts," Mr. Wildmon said.
"The first thing that popped up," he said, "was the federal marriage amendment."
Mr. Wildmon's meeting gave birth to a concerted campaign for a constitutional amendment blocking gay marriage that some Christian conservative leaders say is helping revitalize their movement. It is giving them a rare opportunity to forge potential alliances with African-American and Hispanic churchgoers. And it promises to reopen the flow of financial contributions to their advocacy groups that had slowed to a trickle when Republicans took over Washington.
"Things have not gone well in the past couple of years," said Paul M. Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation. "The movement had not been gaining members, it has not been winning battles, with the exception of the pro-life issue, and those were marginal battles. This issue has come along and it appears to be turning things around."
Soon after the meeting in an apartment complex where Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, has a condominium the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning state sodomy laws. Then in November, a Massachusetts court ruled that gay couples had the right to marry, bringing more attention to the issue.
Despite the Arlington group's efforts, many politicians even some conservatives and notably President Bush have been slow to sign on, partly out of fear that amending the Constitution to police gay unions might seem intolerant or bigoted, conservative strategists and pollsters have said.
But to many at Mr. Wildmon's meeting in Arlington, the situation was urgent. "Look at our entertainment programs, listen to the music, listen to the statistics about babies born out of wedlock," Mr. Wildmon said. "Our team is not winning, not by any stretch of the imagination."
At the same time, attracting new supporters and raising money had grown much more difficult since their bête noire, Bill Clinton, left the White House, several Christian conservative activists involved in the Arlington meeting acknowledged. "Bill Clinton was a great motivator, and when he left there was a sense of `O.K., our guy is in the White House,' " said Gary L. Bauer, founder of the advocacy group American Values and an early ally in organizing the Arlington meeting.
But some in the movement believe opposition to gay marriage could make for even more effective direct mail the financial lifeblood of most advocacy groups than their other great cause, the fight against abortion. "Abortion has never been a strong direct-mailer," said Richard A. Viguerie, founder of American Target Advertising and the dean of conservative direct mail.
In the coming weeks, Mr. Viguerie said, his company expects to send out more than 10 million letters for a host of social conservative groups.
Several people at the Arlington meeting said their constituents were more concerned about gay marriage than about almost any other issue. "I have never seen anything that has energized and provoked our grass roots like this issue, including Roe v. Wade," said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 16 million members.
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But almost as soon as the Arlington meeting began, the discussion turned to a debate over the language of an amendment. For years, the Alliance for Marriage, an ecumenical group, had pushed for a constitutional amendment to prevent courts from forcing states or the country to recognize same-sex marriages. Echoing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the proposed amendment would allow state legislatures to recognize gay civil unions, a provision that had alienated many conservatives. Though the proposed amendment had been introduced in Congress last spring, the Christian Coalition was one of the few organizations in the Arlington group to support it.
Most of the others considered it far too permissive. "I don't care if you call it civil unions," Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said last week. "I don't care if you call it domestic partnership, I don't care if you call it cantaloupe soup, if you are legally spouses at the end of the day, I am not willing to do that."
Just as important, Mr. Farris said, the 81,500 home-schooling families who belong to his organization and who each pay at least $85 a year in dues were against it.
After months of internal debate, the members of the Arlington group went to Capitol Hill for a stormy meeting in November with a group of Republicans including Representative Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, the sponsor of the Alliance for Marriage amendment. More than 20 organizations were represented, and Ms. Rios of Concerned Women for America dominated the conversation, taking Ms. Musgrave to task for proposing an amendment that would allow "counterfeit marriages," three people present recalled.
But Ms. Musgrave refused to budge, arguing that no stronger amendment could pass in Congress, much less in the states. To illustrate her point, Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania reminded the group that after decades of effort, they still had not passed an amendment banning abortion.
With that, practical politics won out over principle, and consensus shifted to the Musgrave amendment, several people present said. "That is when reality set in," Mr. Wildmon said.
The group lost little time in mobilizing their forces. Many of the organizations, including Concerned Women, Mr. Wildmon's American Family Association and Focus on the Family, used their weekly radio broadcasts to emphasize the importance of an amendment. Other organizations sent bulletins to conservative Christian churches and their lay members around the country.
Meanwhile, well-known Arlington group members like James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family and Dr. Land of the Southern Baptist Convention began pressuring President Bush to speak out in favor of an amendment. As his State of the Union address approached, several of them called Karl Rove, the president's top political aide, reminding him of the importance of conservative Christian voters.
In his speech, Mr. Bush spoke sympathetically about a "constitutional process" to define marriage but gave it only conditional support.
The same day, Dr. Dobson sent a direct-mail appeal to 2.5 million people. "The homosexual activist movement is poised to administer a devastating and potentially fatal blow to the traditional family," he wrote. "And sadly, very few Christians in positions of responsibility are willing to use their influence to save it."
Last Tuesday, the Arlington Group decided to put Mr. Rove on the spot. That evening, the members gathered around a speakerphone as Dr. Land questioned Mr. Rove. Would the president support the amendment publicly and, if so, would he do it with the vigor that he showed in fighting for his Medicare bill?
Mr. Rove told them that the president was fully behind it, several people present recalled. "We were told that the president was looking for an appropriate moment for a more public announcement of his support," Dr. Land said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Two days later, Dr. Land sat next to Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, the majority leader, at the national prayer breakfast. "He said, the president has given his approval to the Musgrave amendment language and that is what we are going with," Dr. Land recalled. Dr. Frist could not be reached for comment.
So far, however, the president has yet to publicly fulfill Mr. Rove's private assurances. In a statement after the Massachusetts court affirmed its ruling last week, Mr. Bush called the decision "deeply troubling" but again offered only conditional support for an amendment. "If activist judges insist on redefining marriage by court order, the only alternative will be the constitutional process," he said, without using the word "
IIRC, you recently mentioned a similar comment to me, but I forgot to reply that I basically agree. I don't see how what is supposed to be a co-equal branch of government issuing orders to the other two, i.e. the judicial telling the legislative and executive what they have to do. They can say what is constitutional or not, that's all. They can't tell any legislator how to vote, nor can they compel the executive's signature.
When I think about it, this is a situation ripe for the impeachment of activist judges for exceeding their authority and usurping power not specified in their particular constitution.
I do my best to post only interesting or ironic stuff, and only their knee-jerk rightwing OpEd columnists, Safire and Brooks, from the "paper of record". If you're still awake, I don't believe this will disturb your sleep. This article is from the reporter who will be covering conservatives for the "gray lady" for the foreseeable future. It's a new policy to cover conservatives. I don't see any slant in this article.
Geeze, those thugs run everything these days
So now you know why the left has us so paranoid, right?
Funny choice of words, 'to police'. There is no policing of anything, but I see how liberals are gonna try to spin it.
I have to give him credit for not only accepting reality, just being able to see it is remarkable.