George W. Bush Has Nothing to Say About Gay Marriage

With the upcoming opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum looming, suddenly the 43rd President of the United States is back in the news again, after years of avoiding the limelight. People — or at least, his fellow Republicans — are caring again what the previous president thinks about the issues of the current day. In a recent interview with CBS to promote the new library, he shed light on what he thought of these issues, along with his current activities such as painting.

One thing that Bush definitely doesn’t want to talk about, though, is the current same-sex marriage debate. With DOMA and Prop 8 seemingly on their last legs, and numerous states legalizing same-sex marriage within their own borders, one might be curious what the former president thought. After all, he made opposition to marriage equality a key part of his platform, and it helped to get out the evangelical vote – one of the big demographics that helped re-elect him in 2004 – when so many states had gay marriage bans proposed in 2004. Bush also made his feelings on the issue a clear part of his fourth State of the Union address, saying “If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”

Of course, times and attitudes about LGBTQ rights, and specifically marriage equality, have changed dramatically in the past decade or so, and Bush’s views aren’t the majority anymore. Which may be part of the reason he’s declining to comment on same-sex marriage in his recent interviews, despite insistence that he do so. According to The Raw Story:

During an interview to promote the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, CBS News host Charlie Rose asked the former president if he still favored a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.
“Yeah, well, I’m not, I’m not weighing in on these issues, as you know, because I’ve made the decision to get off the stage,” Bush insisted. “And so I’m off the stage.”

It’s easy to buy Bush’s “decision to get off the stage” excuse at first, especially since that’s been his pattern throughout the last few years, not appearing at party events (despite his supporters’ attempts to re-write his legacy in more flattering terms) and mostly just sticking to his ranch in Texas. It’s hard to think of a time in the past four years when Bush’s opinions about politics have come up, other than regarding his supposed “feud” with Gov. Rick Perry during the latter’s presidential run.

Yet, Bush did decide, in the CBS interview, to speak up on some other political issues where his opinions are more popular – namely, on immigration reform. It’s easy to forget now, in the era of a Republican Party that has become increasingly unfriendly to Latino/a Americans, but Bush actually had significant support among Hispanic voters – and one of the projects he championed was immigration reform. When asked about that in his interview, he was actually eager to announce his continuing support for it:

I hope it happens because it’s the right thing to do. The problem with an issue like immigration is that there are a lot of moving parts. And a single moving part can end up disturbing a lot of people. And sometimes people focus on the moving parts as opposed to the whole. But I hope they get something done. And I’m impressed by the efforts thus far to get something done.

All five living presidents at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library via The Atlantic

All five living presidents at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library via The Atlantic

Of course, even that statement is fairly vague, and could easily lend support to either side of the immigration debate; opponents of efforts like the DREAM Act want “reforms,” too, just different kinds of them. It’s clear that Bush doesn’t want to truly step back in the limelight and, as he put it, “undermine our current president” by speaking out – a move that, depending on your image of the man, could be seen as classy or underhanded (in terms of realizing that taking too public of a stance will damage the current GOP because of Bush’s stained legacy). If it’s the second, it’s fairly ironic in terms of the work current Republicans have put into trying to rehabilitate what the public thinks of Bush, and to cast his legacy in a flattering light – an effort that could be seen as successful as Bush’s approval ratings have improved since he left office, currently matching Obama’s according to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll.

The fact is, though, that while Bush does seem generally more interested in removing himself from the current political discourse, leaving that duty to current politicians, there are some issues on which he will speak his mind. But same-sex marriage isn’t one of them. Perhaps it’s because he knows that his opinions just aren’t the ones the American people want to hear anymore. Polls show that most Americans support marriage equality, making it yet another issue where it’s clear the public has moved beyond the former president.

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Rose is a 24-year-old Detroit native currently living in Boston, where she is working on her master's degree in musicology. Classical music, history, 1960s rock bands, cartoons, cats, Diet Coke, old movies and the Detroit Tigers are just a few of her favorite things. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime New Network and has also written for Bitch and her own media-analysis blog. You should follow her on Twitter and Tumblr.

Rose has written 69 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    I’m not sure if it’s the popularity of the issue that’s discoraging him from speaking. I’m pretty sure the man still holds the idea that only hetero couples should be married, but realizes that his opinion is no longer relevant.

    To me, what’s funny about this is that I work for this man: http://www.brentmendenhall.com/ who made a career impersonating president Bush. And sometimes we talk politics. I don’t know his current stance on the gay marriage issue. I watched a film he was in called “First Impersonator” in which he stated that, as a Republican, he wasn’t in support of the issue. But he knows I’m queer and doesn’t seem to care. In every other political conversation I’ve had with Brent, he presents as a moderate. Maybe that’s because the limelight is off him now and he’s no longer representing an entire body of thought? Like, now he can be a real person and an individual with real thoughts. Maybe the same is happening with the real Bush.

  2. Thumb up 5

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    Funny he feels that way because I have nothing to say about his presidency, either.

    But my silence means I thought it was an unprecedented disaster that bankrupted America and put tons of young people in coffins. So we’re good.

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      Pretty idiotic response. And how is Obama pulling us out of our supposed coffins? With Obamacare and crippling businesses with taxes and regulations? Yeah OK. Lol

  3. Thumb up 6

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    Frankly speaking I don’t give a flying **** what this guy has to say about LGBTQ rights. We are all in one huge mess because of him and his henchman Cheyney. He lost the authority to determine anybodies destiny long ago.Let him sit on the fence twiddling his thumbs and opening his museums and libraries.Other people with more credibility can discuss gay marriage.

  4. Thumb up 8

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    What I find so interesting about Bush is that his wife, Laura, came out in support of gay marriage (she’s also pro-choice) around the same time Hillary Clinton was opposing it (saying instead that she was for civil unions. It makes me wonder about the conversations the Bushs have about politics…

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      I’m pretty sure Laura Bush has been a life-long moderate, maybe even more left-leaning, or at least I’ve heard that somewhere. I mean, as much as you can be left-leaning or moderate while married to and rather silent on the actions of a sincerely conservative, idiotic, oppressive man.

      Here’s a pretty decent Atlantic article on Laura Bush’s more liberal revelations: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/05/the-secret-inner-life-of-laura-bush/56644/

      Barbara Bush, one of their twins, also came out in support of gay marriage in 2011, so hopefully soon W. won’t have a homophobic leg to stand on even at the family dinner table.

    • Thumb up 13

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      It’s interesting that every First Lady since Pat Nixon (who I believe was the first one they asked) has been pro-choice, regardless of what her husband’s opinion on the matter was.

      Makes one think that maybe we should have more women running this country.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    Thanks for this article Rose, I think it’s a really interesting discussion. I think it’s clear this is a sign that the momentum is behind marriage equality, and personally I’d be surprised if we didn’t have the issue taken care of in the U.S. at least within a decade or two (though of course maybe I’m wrong about that, we’ll see).

    However, another point about Bush’s Legacy that I feel like sometimes gets set aside in these conversations is foreign policy. At the end of Bush’s second term, Condoleezza Rice made a prediction that Obama’s foreign policy would basically be a continuation of Bush’s second term (when Bush largely turned away from Cheney’s advice and started working more closely with Rice). And I think that’s basically true and I think that is extremely unfortunate.

    In fact, to be perfectly honest, I think part of the reason that Bush doesn’t bother to speak about the marriage issue now isn’t necessarily that he’s resigned himself to ‘fate’ on the issue, it might be more that he actually didn’t care *that* much in the first place. It might have just been more or less a tool to push the evangelical turnout, which then, after he was elected allowed him to turn back to the issues that I think were more important to him (foreign policy and his failed attempt at privatizing social security).

    Honestly, I think if we look at Obama’s trajectory on the marriage issue, one could easily argue that he uses it for the same purpose from the progressive side of things. (I recall on the Daily Show they got hold of surveys Obama filled out back in his professor days in which he already unambiguously supported marriage equality many years ago).

  6. Thumb up 0

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    Question guys, when people vote for parties at election time in the states, do they vote for party values, or the candidates’ personal values.

    Cos there is a big difference between personal views and parties views.

    So who do Americans generally trust in the end, the potential president, or the presidential party, or are they the same?A

    • Thumb up 1

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      It’s easy to say “vote for the person not the party,” but I think people don’t take into account that, especially in legislative bodies like the House or the Senate, people are expected to be somewhat accountable to the party with which they affiliate. Even if they personally disagree with certain tenets, they can’t make too many waves if they want to keep their seat or get positions on committees or whatever. So yes, I don’t vote for Republicans for that reason, even moderate ones (although, I agree with pretty much nothing the GOP advocates for so chances are, whoever the Democrat they’re running against is will likely be someone I’ll agree with more anyway).

      It was something I remember telling people during the Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren match-up here in MA last fall, and a tactic the Warren campaign used to great effect. Brown may be a relatively moderate Republican, but because he’s going to caucus with his party most of the time, voting for him does essentially amount to a vote for the GOP platform in general. And there were many times in his short Senate career when he voted for extreme social conservative policies (like a lot of the abortion/birth control stuff) against the wishes of his constituents here in Massachusetts.

  7. Thumb up 3

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    Oh, I had at least one comment removed for responding to the people who came in here hating. It looks a little unwarranted and harsh now, but I, a.) forgot we have moderators to take down comments from haters like that and thought the worst, that it would stay up there making people feel bad, and b.) was raging pretty hard because Autostraddle and Tumblr are two of the only places I can be free from that shit.

    So I’ve tried deleting my comments myself, but I thought I’d apologize because I was in a “rage cannot be caged” mood last night and now the comments just seem nasty.

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