Alternate History

Commentary: OutRight

Washington, D.C., July 4 — President Bush will announce today that he has decided to retract his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, says a source within the National Security Agency who monitored a presidential telephone call to congressional allies on the subject.

According to the NSA source, the president will make the following statement:

”Throughout my time as your president, I have made difficult decisions because I thought they were in the best interests of the country. I have stood by the principles that make this country great, and that have served it well for more than two centuries, regardless of the political consequences to me and my party. I believe the people should keep more of their money and that low taxes produce prosperity for everyone, so I have backed tax cuts that were demagogically denounced by members of the other party as helping only the rich. I believe you can plan better and invest more wisely for your future than the government can, so I have supported Social Security reform that many say is the ‘third rail’ of politics. I believe immigration has made this country great and that people who come here to make a better life for themselves deserve a chance to become Americans, so I have backed a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants despite the intense opposition of many members of my own party. And I think this country has a moral duty to help fledgling democracies and to carry through on its commitments, so I have refused to pull our troops out of Iraq despite the rising unpopularity of the war.

”Two years ago, I announced my support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I strongly believe that’s what marriage is and should be. If I were a state legislator or a governor, I’d oppose defining marriage in any other way. I supported the amendment because, at the time, I feared that uncontrollable judges and local officials were recklessly and lawlessly playing with the foundation of the American family.

”But I was wrong. Like others, I overreacted to what seemed like an emergency. I did not have sufficient faith in the historic processes of American government. The local officials who were defying state law in 2004 have been brought into line. DOMA is still good law. The states have begun amending their own constitutions to define marriage. I have appointed many federal judges, including two to the Supreme Court, who will not tamper with marriage. And while I still fear that some state courts will attempt to redefine marriage in years to come, I am confident that the people in those states can deal with their own courts if that is what they choose to do. After all, that is what we have always trusted them to do.

”We may not like the choices some states make about these matters, but if our nation’s historic commitment to federalism means anything, it means that the states should, within constitutional limits, be allowed to go their own way on important policy matters. That has been the dominant practice and theory of our federal design for more than two centuries.

”Never before in the history of the country have we amended the Constitution in response to a threatened state court decision. Never before have we amended the Constitution to preempt an anticipated federal court ruling. Never before have we adopted a constitutional amendment to limit the states’ ability to control their own family law. Never before have we dictated to states what their own state laws and state constitutions mean. Never before have we amended the Constitution to restrict the ability of the democratic process to expand individual rights. This is no time to start.

”I know this decision will not be popular with many members of my own party. But it is a president’s responsibility to lead, not to follow, especially when it comes to matters of important principle. As on so many other decisions I’ve made, I will not bow to political pressure when I know better. Two years ago, I should have known better. Now I do.”

Standing by his side at the news conference will be Vice President Dick Cheney, who said in 2004 that he opposes an amendment because states should be allowed to decide the issue for themselves and that ”freedom means freedom for everybody”; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008; former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the main House author of DOMA; conservative commentator George Will, who announced on ABC’s ”This Week” that he opposes an amendment because state experiments with gay marriage may produce valuable information about whether the reform is worthwhile; conservative policy analyst James Q. Wilson, who likened a federal marriage amendment to that conservative bete noire, Roe v. Wade, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal; and numerous other life-long conservatives who have consistently championed federalism.

Also present will be First Lady Laura Bush, who recently said that the gay-marriage issue should be discussed ”sensitively” and should not be used for political purposes.

Karl Rove, the president’s senior political advisor, could not be reached for comment.

The news report comes from HSEPA, the Hope Springs Eternal Press Agency.

Dale Carpenter is a law professor. He can be reached at OutRight@metroweekly.com.