Washington Post Slanders Marriage Supporters


The Washington Post today flung a new slander at the supporters of marriage – that millions of American voters who overwhelmingly approved 21 state constitutional amendments defining marriage as one man and one woman in the 2004 and 2006 elections were callously duped by Karl Rove and the Bush White House to manipulate them to go to the polls and vote for Republican candidates. This is totally inaccurate, and I say that as one who was there during that time working with those who supported those marriage amendments. Those amendments were a spontaneous grass roots uprising by voters and state lawmakers against the judicial activism they saw in Massachusetts, as well as an effort to protect the institution of marriage that has served and sustained our society well over the eons. Karl Rove and the Bush White House had nothing to do with the amendments.

The Washington Post’s historical error on the marriage amendments came in the context of an article where former RNC chairman and chairman of the Bush 2004 reelection campaign, Ken Mehlman, revealed that he engages in homosexual behavior. Mehlman, who had not publicly disclosed that fact in 2004 while he was leading President Bush’s reelection campaign, expressed regret that he had not opposed an alleged strategy of odium by Karl Rove to bring voters to the polls by putting marriage amendments on their state ballots. Here is the full section from the Washington Post article:

“Mehlman acknowledged to Ambinder that had he been open about his sexuality earlier, he might have tried to push back against parts of the national Republican agenda, including efforts by former Bush adviser Karl Rove in 2004 and 2006 to put same-sex marriage initiatives on the ballot in states across the country:”

“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”

That is simply not true. Karl Rove and the Bush White House did not initiate the drive for state constitutional amendments for marriage in 2004 and 2006, and were highly reluctant to use the issue to bring voters to the polls, even in 2004 when it may have helped reelected George W. Bush. I know, because I was there.

First, some history is in order. The Washington Post conveniently omits the two obvious reasons in 2004 that sparked the movement for state constitutional amendments on marriage: The decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court imposing same-sex marriage on the state in November 2003 (and which took effect in May 2004), and the renegade efforts by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to hand out unauthorized marriage licenses to same sex couples starting in February 2004.

The first big shock to the American public came on November 18, 2003, when the Massachusetts high court, by a 4-3 vote in Goodrich v. Department of Public Health, ruled that the state constitution protected a right for individuals to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. The Massachusetts court stayed its decision for 6 months, to allow the state legislature to make appropriate changes in state law. The decision went into effect in May 2004 with much media fanfare showing same sex couples participating in marriage ceremonies in Massachusetts.

A few months before the Massachusetts decision went into effect, Mayor Gavin Newsom created a firestorm in San Francisco on February 12, 2004 by unilaterally interpreting California law to empower him to give state marriage licenses to same sex couples, although state law clearly limited marriage to one man and one woman. Same sex couples lined up at San Francisco’s City Hall to receive these legally invalid marriage licenses, and the media broadcast the events around the world. The Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit and successfully convinced the California Supreme Court to order Mayor Newsom to stop issuing the unauthorized marriage licenses. Other local jurisdictions, such as Sandoval County, New Mexico and Multnomah County, Oregon began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, prompting a lawsuit by ADF allied attorney that successfully stopped it at the Oregon Supreme Court.

All of this public turmoil on marriage unfolding in San Francisco, Massachusetts and elsewhere during the spring of 2004 happened when state legislatures were in session. A spontaneous grassroots movement led by state family policy councils and state lawmakers successfully passed 13 state constitutional amendments in 2004 which in essence, defined marriage under their state laws as consisting only as one man and one woman. The people in these states put these amendments on the ballots in order to preclude in their states the judicial activism that Massachusetts had suffered. In the fall of 2004, voters approved 13 marriage amendments – Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.

In 2004, ADF was deeply involved in the marriage issue, and many of the pro-marriage activists called upon ADF’s expertise on helping to draft the amendments and defend them in court. I was one of those attorneys. I can remember sitting in meetings with pro-marriage leaders in the summer of 2004, hearing them lament about the passive non-responses they were getting from Karl Rove and the Bush Administration. President Bush publicly supported a federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but his officials did nothing to help the state marriage amendments.

Even in 2006, when eight more states amended their constitutions to define marriage as one man and one woman, I recall no involvement by the Bush White House, and certainly no leadership on the issue. Even if someone can find where President Bush offered some lip service to the state amendments in 2006, he and Karl Rove had little, if not nothing to do with them. We would have heard of it if he had. (By the way, the states that passed marriage amendments in 2006 were Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin).

Even if Ken Mehlman at that time had convinced Karl Rove and President Bush to discourage passage of state marriage amendments, their efforts would have been futile. This political movement by the people could not have been stopped. This was a grand effort by millions of voters from states as diverse as Oregon and Virginia, Wisconsin and Mississippi, Utah and Michigan to protect their authority to define marriage in a uniform way for all people, and prevent judicial activism from runaway courts to thwart the will of the people to retain the definition of marriage that most cultures have held since the dawn of time.

So the Washington Post is flat wrong that Karl Rove and the Bush Administration manipulated and bamboozled millions of Americans in 2004 and 2006 to vote for marriage. They supported marriage for the right reasons – the best social institution to raise children is one of a marriage, consisting of a child’s own father and mother, in a lifelong, exclusive and monogamous relationship.