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August 5, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 84




Tom Fox Compassion lacking in gay union discourse

By Tom Fox, NCR publisher

President George Bush said this week that he is against same-sex marriages and will block any effort to enshrine them in law.

What does this mean? It means the president wants to change the focus of public attention while throwing a bone to his social conservatives.

Faced with bad news on a host of foreign policy fronts from North Korea, to Iraq, to Iran, and on the domestic front from the swiftly growing budget deficit to a belatedly aggressive press corps burned by months of White House deceptions, Bush wants to deflect, divide and conquer.

Incredibly, Bush is saying that instead of being concerned with persistent high unemployment, a trillion dollars in new federal debt over the next two years, continued American deaths in Iraq, unhindered progress towards a North Korean and Iranian nuclear capacity, Americans should be seriously worried about the prospect that two men or two women, loving and committed, should not be allowed some legal and financially cover.

Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts said recently the issue is about civil rights and not marriage. He reminds us that the "divert attention" tactic ought to be familiar. It was used in 1996, when the Republicans, faced with President Clinton's popularity, rolled out the Defense of Marriage Act, asserting -- wholly falsely it is now clear -- that a tidal wave of gay marriages was about to surge out of Hawaii and engulf America.

The White House position on gay unions is a far cry from the very public and more compassionate expressions of his own vice president Dick Cheney. In October of 2000 when on the campaign trail seeking votes from supporters of equal rights, Cheney told a national television audience that the question of same-sex relationships should be left to the states, and the federal government might best stay clear of this area of legislation.

Ah, but that was when Bush conservatives were compassionate.

There is hardly a person alive today who does not have a sister, nephew, uncle, friend or colleague living in a gay or lesbian relationship. To most observers these relationships, when committed and monogamous -- as many heterosexuals vow to live against a spotty record -- are simply caring and private matters in a cold world that has traditionally shown little tolerance for them.

Fortunately, gays have advanced in the spectrum of human and civil rights. We know longer burn or hang them. We even allow them to hold hands without pointing fingers.

Unless they're Catholic. Gay Catholics were hit with a double whammy this week. One day after Bush openly opposed same-sex marriages, the Vatican launched a worldwide campaign against legalized homosexual unions. In a 12-page document, the Vatican called such unions the product of "deviant behavior" and a grave threat to society.

Deviant behavior? What has happened to elementary Christian compassion? More on this later this week.

Tom Fox is NCR publisher. He can be reached at

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