President Bush, in his news conference on Wednesday, July 30
, put his "compassionate conservative" principles out in full view by stating that we should be tolerant of gays and lesbians (despite his reference to them as "sinners" -- that must be the compassionate side of Dubya), while at the same time stating that administration lawyers are looking into the legal steps necessary to make sure that "marriage" is a status that will be reserved to opposite-sex couples as a matter of federal law
. Putting aside the most likely explanation for this comment -- that he was appealing (or pandering, as you like it) to his conservative base -- and taking his words at face value, exactly what the lawyers are looking into is a bit of a mystery. Maybe a constitutional amendment, though clean-up hitter and press secretary Scott McClellan did not take the bait on that one at his daily press briefing on Thursday
. (By the way, kudos to the White House press office
for a fully functional search engine and an indexed press briefing feature on their web page. In terms of functionality, the Bush crew got off to a slow start, but the availability and functionality of retrievable White House comments is now excellent.) As many have noted, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act
("DOMA") already establishes (i) that "marriage" means opposite-sex unions for purposes of federal statutes, rules, benefits, and programs and (ii) that states do not have to give full faith and credit to any other state's legal decrees to the contrary. It's hard to see how all this would have come up, at least at this time, if it weren't for the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas
, which not only struck down Texas' Penal Code provision on homosexual sodomy but also ruled that the states' police powers need more than a purely moral basis to pass even rational-basis review by the federal courts.