Knot In My Backyard

As the culture wars become increasingly rancorous, the blogosphere is partying like it’s 1992 — although this time around it’s same-sex marriage at issue, not Sister Souljah or “Murphy Brown.”

Andrew Sullivan leads the charge, declaring that the “president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families.”

Although Bush did say that states should be “free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage,” an outraged Sullivan rails against what he sees as a move to institutionalize discrimination:

This president wants our families denied civil protection and civil acknowledgment. He wants us stigmatized not just by a law, not just by his inability even to call us by name, not just by his minions on the religious right. He wants us stigmatized in the very founding document of America. There can be no more profound attack on a minority in the United States - or on the promise of freedom that America represents.

Bryan Preston, who calls Sullivan’s words “childishly shrill,” takes a positive view of the announcement, arguing that it signals “what we have in President George W. Bush is a man who takes stands. He does not waffle, he does not try to be all things to all people, and he does not try to be on three sides of a two-sided issue. He is a grown-up with strong beliefs and the backbone to say what he believes and to act based on those beliefs.”

Kevin Drum and others accuse Bush of basing his stance on political calculations, not on principle. Says Josh Marshall: “So deprived of the ability to run on his record he’s decided to save his political hide by trying to tear the country apart over a charged and divisive social issue which is being hashed out through the political process in the states.”

As Atrios notes, Larry King asked Bush in 2000 “if a state were voting on gay marriage, you would suggest to that state not to approve it?” Bush replied: “The state can do what they want to do.”

And finally, Nick Confessore, writing on Tapped, says the president has “committed a major political blunder,” in part because recent televised images of gay couples in San Francisco have changed the political calculus. “[Gay marriage] may have been the political equivalent of looking under one’s bed in the light of day, and realizing that monster was just an old sweatshirt covered in dust bunnies. The discomfort is still there. But I believe that, as the notion of gays being married becomes a banal reality and not a worrisome hypothetical, the discomfort will begin to fade among many people. Call it the ‘Will & Grace’ effect.”

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.