No Rose Garden for Bush's Anti-Gay Marriage Speech

Despite decent weather, White House organizers moved President Bush's endorsement of the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage from the austere and unmistakably presidential Rose Garden, where invitations last week advertised it would be, into a plain room with blue curtains at an office building next door.

The president stood on the stage alone, gave a muted speech and quickly left. The way cameras were positioned, the presidential seal was not visible as he spoke to the room.

While his words in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment were tough, the event itself lacked the pageantry that could have backed up the force of his words.

If last week in the Senate was Memorial Day vacation week, and the two weeks before that were immigration weeks, and the week before that was health week, we're coming up on core American values week, GOP style. Issue No. 1, as introduced on the Senate floor Monday: the Marriage Protection Amendment.

But for all the talk in the media about the gay marriage issue stoking the embers of the Republican base and helping the GOP gird up for what could be a difficult November 2006, the debate lacked the passionate protests and impassioned floor speeches on both sides of the immigration debate.

At the two gay marriage press events on Capitol Hill, one supporting and one against the amendment, the only lawmaker in sight was the main sponsor of the amendment.

Conservative Wayne Allard, R-Colo., made an appearance mid-morning with the Alliance for Marriage, which wrote the amendment language. The Alliance is diverse, both ethnically and in its religious beliefs, though united in its belief that gay marriage is wrong.

There was a rabbi, an African Methodist Episcopal bishop, a Mormon elder and several Latino evangelists at the event.

Doing most of the talking was Matt Daniels, founder of the Alliance for Marriage, who was raised by a single mother on welfare in Queens and has used his personal story as moral collateral to lobby tirelessly in favor of two-parent, heterosexual families.

Daniels also argued that, more than energizing the base, the gay marriage issue unifies Americans. He gestured to the diverse group of people around him.That support for what he called traditional families goes beyond partisan, political lines and has great strength in traditionally Democratic blocks of ethnic minorities -- blacks and Latinos.

"Support for our cause in those communities is higher than it is in the anglo community," he said.

Daniels and Allard and the clergy all made statements, most of them saying that they believe there is a decline in the American family, and that an alarming number of children being raised without a father figure are reasons to pass the amendment banning gay marriage. The press corps -- which could accurately be described as hostile -- asked in many ways, to no avail, how banning gay marriage would solve the problem of deadbeat dads and single parents.

Daniels said Americans want to be guided by their laws. The press didn't buy that, and the questions got more and more heated. Daniels eventually had to, as he put it, "call this press conference."

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