Today is the 25th anniversary of the identification of a mysterious syndrome attacking gay men, which would in time be called AIDS. President George Bush is marking the day by calling for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would bar same-sex marriage, despite the fact that there are currently thousands of U.S. citizens who are in legal same-sex marriages.
I am ashamed that the president of my country wants to use the Constitution of the United States to break up the lawful marriages of thousands of my co-citizens. But I’m not at all surprised at his timing. The depth of his contempt for the Constitution, and of his pandering to bigots, requires no less of him than this.
There are parallels, I think, between this George and another: George Wallace. The latter George famously stood in a schoolhouse door in 1963 to show he stood with those who believed in segregation now and forever. Later, when he was asked why he indulged in racist politics, Wallace said, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.” Yet in his later political career, Wallace recanted his racist views, reached out to those to whom he had earlier expressed hate, and worked to make amends. Was this recantation personal or merely political? It’s not for me to say, but even if it were the latter it was still the right thing to do.
By declaring his desire to take away rights that people already have, George Bush is standing in his own schoolhouse door, condoning bigotry to satisfy his own particular group of floor stompers. One may hope in the fullness of time he will do as Wallace did and attempt to make amends. I would be willing to forgive him, to the extent that he is doing me wrong by his position. But there are others whom he is wronging more, and from whom he will need forgiveness more.