Several conservative Christian groups applauded the Bush administration’s move toward protecting marriage and urged the President to further champion a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in his State of the Union speech next week.
President Bush’s marriage initiative, which Bush will announce during next week’s speech, will provide at least $1.5 billion in training low-income couples develop skills for a “healthy marriage.”
"This is a way for the president to address the concerns of conservatives and to solidify his conservative base," said a presidential adviser.
Dr. Janice Crouse, director of the Christian Beverly LaHaye Institute called the new initiative a "very positive approach to this particular problem -- the decline in marriage."
However, several other major Christian groups were disconcerted at the initiative’s ignorance of the issue of same-sex unions.
"This is like lobbing a snowball at a forest fire," said Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women of America, one of the largest conservative Christian advocacy groups. "This administration is dancing dangerously around the issue of homosexual marriage."
"Those who would lead the president to believe that an initiative to promote marriage among low-income families will be an adequate defense against the destruction of marriage are political fools who will destroy the nation in an effort to mainstream perversion," Rios continued.
Several other prominent conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council and the Southern Baptist Convention had been urging the administration to embrace an amendment blocking same-sex marriage. Some, including Concerned Women of American and the Family Research Council, said they also hoped for an amendment to prohibit states from recognizing same-sex civil unions.
In his only public statement on same-sex marriage, President Bush left many evangelical leaders puzzled about his intention. In a television interview last month, Mr. Bush said he believed a marriage was "between a man and a women" and that he would support a constitutional amendment "if necessary." But he also said that "whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state, or does start at the state level," and he emphasized the need for tolerance.
Ms. Rios of Concerned Women of America said Mr. Bush had implicitly endorsed gay unions. "It is the same as saying the federal government doesn't want to weigh in on slavery, but if the states want to call it chattel that is O.K.," Ms. Rios said.
Gary L. Bauer, president of the conservative group American Values, said, "If the White House puts this on the back burner or doesn't put political capital into it, that would deeply demoralize a large block of voters that they are expecting to turn out in November."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council said the State of the Union speech, where the President lays out his year’s agenda, is the pivotal test.
"Time is running out,” said Perkins, “but the clock is still ticking."