WASHINGTON – President Bush said Wednesday he was troubled by gay weddings in San Francisco and by legal decisions in Massachusetts that could clear the way for same-sex marriage (search).
He declined to say whether he was more inclined now to back a constitutional ban. However, he spoke privately with conservative Catholics about the issue, and activists who favor such a ban said the president would soon announce his support.
"I have watched carefully what's happening in San Francisco, where licenses were being issued, even though the law states otherwise," Bush said. "I have consistently stated that I'll support law to protect marriage between a man and a woman. Obviously these events are influencing my decision."
One group took issue with Bush's insistence that "people," not the courts, need to resolve the issue.
"In San Francisco, the democratically elected mayor took this action just weeks after hundreds of thousands of people voted for him," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel of Lambda Legal, a gay and lesbian legal group.
"It's the right-wing groups that have taken this into courts seeking to define marriage in a way that would exclude same-sex couples, in violation of California's Constitution," Davidson said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush recognized that gay marriage is a divisive topic. But, he said, "this is an issue where he believes it is important for people to stand up on principle."
Bush met with 13 Roman Catholic conservatives. They included Deal Hudson, the publisher of Crisis magazine and a friend of Bush political adviser Karl Rove (search); William Donohue (search), president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Reagan (search); and Kathryn Jean Lopez, associate editor of National Review magazine.
Gay and lesbian couples from Europe and more than 20 states have flocked to San Francisco City Hall since city officials decided to begin marrying same-sex couples a few days ago. At the current pace, more than 3,000 people will have taken vows by Friday promising to be "spouses for life."
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that it is unconstitutional to bar gay couples from marriage.
At least 38 states and the federal government have approved laws or amendments barring the recognition of gay marriage. On Wednesday, the Utah House gave final legislative approval to a measure outlawing same-sex marriages and sent it to the governor, who has not taken a position on the bill.