George W. Bush has had a lot of great lines as a President. Between his famous foul-ups of the English language (AKA: Bush-isms), his homely, often religious, quotes that seem to make little sense and his various fibs/half-truths, the Bush presidency has produced more one-liners than your average Rodney Dangerfield performance.
However, few, if any, of these lines truly earned their place in the "Double Talk Hall of Fame". Unlike Clinton, who was so renowned for his double talk he was became known as "Slick Willie", Bush has almost always been direct, frank and to the point. So, even though he might be an idiot, he might be a zealot and he might be a liar, he's never tried to play both sides.
That was, until last week.
It was then, after the Supreme court struck down anti-sodomy laws, giving the gay rights movement a tremendous shot in the arm, that Bush found himself pressed on the issue of gay and lesbian marriage, the next logical step and something Bush clearly opposes. It was there our defiant Republican President uttered these words, "(It is) Important for society to welcome each individual… (but) I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another."
To call this a beautiful example of doubletalk would be an understatement. I have to wonder if Bush's writers thought they were geniuses for devising a way to appear tolerant of gays and lesbians, while holding firm on the issue of gay marriage, essentially, a way to appeal to the "moral" right, while trying to remain a centrist President.
Unfortunately for Bush, his doubletalk is more than obvious. As Clinton found out when asking for the definition of "is" in a federal courtroom, speaking out of both sides of your mouth only gets you in more trouble.
You see, to me, having respect for someone means more than just saying you do, it means treating the person like an equal and, as a politician, that means ensuring that that they have equal rights under the law and that they have the same opportunities you do.
However, by denouncing gay marriages, you're denying a large portion of our population some of the basic rights and freedoms heterosexuals enjoy. These rights go well beyond just the freedom to get married, but also encompass a great deal of other rights. Here are a few examples of benefits life-long homosexual couples will never share that heterosexual ones can:
The right to own property jointly.
The right to file taxes as married and receive tax breaks/credits.
The right to adopt children as a couple.
The right to be at your mate's side if they're sick or injured.
The right to receive benefits in the event of your partner's death.
The ability to receive property in the event your significant other dies without a will.
The ability to naturalize a non-citizen.
The ability to share insurance coverage.
As you can see, this isn't just an issue of the government not recognizing a certain kind of relationship, but an issue of the government denying an entire segment of the population a series of rights and privileges that others probably take for granted.
Even though it's technically true a homosexual man can marry a woman, if they fail to consummate the marriage, which would almost certainly be the case, the marriage is considered invalid and can be annulled. Besides, getting married solely for the benefits of marriage, be it citizenship or insurance, is known as marriage fraud and is a crime punishable with jail time.
So, long story short, the way Mr. Bush shows his "respect" for gays and lesbians is to force them to choose between an invalid marriage, complete with possibility of jail time, and going their lives without these potentially important rights. It doesn't seem very respectful does it?
But Bush covers up his disrespect by saying he's "preserving the sanctity of marriage" by defining it as being a union between a man and a woman. While that sounds well and good, the second part of his double talk holds no more water than the first part.
First off, no one is talking about gay and lesbian marriages. No nation in the world or state in the nation allows gay and lesbian marriages. Rather, they allow "civil unions" or other, non-marital pairings. Gays and lesbians have been, on the whole, fine with this terminology and only want the rights and privileges that come with being married, something civil unions provide. Most gays and lesbians realize that terms such "marriage", "husband" and "wife" don't apply to their relationships and are seeking new terms to define their pairings.
Second, if Mr. Bush respected gays and lesbians as much as he claims, he would have spent at least some time around them. If he had done that, he would have seen that the love shared in a gay or lesbian couple is the same love shared between a heterosexual couple. I've seen it first hand and I think it's a beautiful thing, I wouldn't deny anyone I cared about or even simply respected the right to call these emotions love and I would not deny them the right to enjoy the legal fruits of their union. If you believe that love exists, then there is no harm to "protect" marriage from and by trying to create such a narrow definition of marriage one is doing far more to harm it than anything gays and lesbians could ever do simply because you're restricting something that truly knows no bounds.
What it boils down to is pretty simple. Either Mr. Bush is so afraid of, or intolerant of gays and lesbians that he feels the need to "protect" marriage from them or he thinks so little of the idea of marriage that he's prepared to restrict it to an archaic ideal that outlived its usefulness over a thousand years ago.
However, as everyone realizes, Mr. Bush is a happily married man and would never come down against marriage. That would be beyond foolish. The answer is painfully obvious; Mr. Bush is, more or less, a homophobe. No matter how much he claims to "respect" gays and no matter how much he uses double talk to straddle the line, his policies speak for themselves and he's come down hard, perhaps harder than any president in recent history, against the gay rights movement.
However, that's his right. As an American citizen it's his right to feel as he does about gays and lesbians and, as the President, he has to vote/speak his conscious and, since he's a Republican, I'd hardly call his closed-minded, fearful and ignorant attitude toward gays surprising. But what he's doing with his speeches is, in effect, trying to deceive the public again. If you don't like gays, if they make you uncomfortable and if you're against homosexuality, say so. Don't praise them with one hand and smite them with the other, don't try to breed acceptance and tolerance while trying to push discriminatory legislation.
Because, even though I couldn't disagree with Mr. Bush more on this issue, I'd at least have respect for him if he held true to his ideals and beliefs and had the courage to state his honest opinions.
Then again, if I did respect him, it probably wouldn't be returned and even if he could bring himself to respect me, he's made it painfully obvious he couldn't respect my friends, my neighbors or even my girlfriend.
That is, at least not enough to ensure that they are equal citizens in the eyes of the law.