Thursday, January 22, 2004

history and bones

The gay fellow in the NY Times story below who is the president's friend said that the president did not have an anti-gay bone in his body. I don't know the president, but I won't dispute that he is accepting of the gay folk in his life. And when he sees Vice President Cheney's daughter and her partner, I am sure that he is quite cordial and perhaps even personable.

But then some of the southern politicians of the early and mid-20th century who used racism as a political tool were probably not all personally hateful toward African Americans in their personal lives. Look at Strom Thurmond. Privately, he even showed a degree of fatherly concern for his daughter. But for those politicians, this had little affect on their ability to block black students from schools, to fight the right of black American citizens to vote, and to prevent fairness in housing and in the workplace.

I am not saying that President Bush is today's version of Strom Thurmond, a fellow who very effectively used code words, too, to hurt a class of people. But to paraphrase the president's gay friend's description of whether Bush publicly supports the anti-gay marriage amendment, he's getting closer to the line.

Gay marriage is a difficult argument. At least half of all Americans are dead-set against it at this time. But we have come to a point in our national life when our law does not adequately represent or protect a whole class of people. And instead of attempting to rectify this, the answer is not to re-write the constitution.

President Kennedy, who was sympathetic to the civil rights movement, was in no great hurry to bring about civil rights in the south. He appointed awful federal judges there. He kept a public arms length from one of the most celebrated moments in the civil rights movement, the 1963 March on Washington.

But as people's lives were threatened, and as activist federal judges demanded that African American students were not going to be prevented from attending public schools and colleges, he upheld the law. He didn't bash the judges.

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