Robert Novak

There is not much room for fine-tuning. On May 21, Republican freshman Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado introduced a constitutional amendment saying "marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman," adding that federal or state constitutions cannot be interpreted to the contrary. Last Monday, another Colorado Republican, Sen. Wayne Allard, introduced an identical amendment with three GOP co-sponsors.

The position by the six serious Democratic presidential candidates opposing a constitutional amendment would lead to legalization of gay marriage that they profess to oppose. More difficult for the president, the same position is held by libertarian and neo-conservative members of his own coalition.

A "White House adviser" was quoted by the Los Angeles Times saying Bush "doesn't much care for 'moralistic debates.'" Neo-conservative journalist David Brooks, recently hired by the New York Times as a columnist, stirred the nation's capital Nov. 22 by writing: ''We (conservatives) shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage."

Charlie Cook, a respected campaign handicapper, has called this issue "frivolous and insignificant" when compared with casualties in Iraq and unemployment in America. Not in the opinion of Bush's social conservatives, who over the last two weeks have made clear to the White House that this -- even more than abortion -- is their great concern about the nation's social fabric.

These Bush backers see the president under worldwide assault as a Christian, particularly in a Europe where atheism is on the rise and religion on the decline. They cannot imagine he will not endorse a constitutional amendment. They cannot understand why he has not done so already on an issue that has been percolating for months.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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