Once upon a time, President Bush threw his weight behind a discriminatory “Marriage Protection Amendment” months before an important election. The amendment was debated in the Senate and failed, not even garnering 50 votes of support. The year? Well, take your pick. It’s happened twice now, in 2004 and just this week.

It’s hard to see the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would ban same-sex couples from being married, as anything but an election-year wedge issue. Pushed into a corner by the ever-declining approval rates of both the presidency in general and the Iraq war specifically, Bush has resorted to the basest pandering for conservative votes.

The 49 senators who voted in favor of the amendment should be presented with some hard questioning. Why did they support the idea of adding a second-class citizenship to the Constitution? Why did they want to codify discrimination? Who do they think this is going to win over?

Despite an unquestionable defeat in the Senate, the supporters of the amendment will be bringing the question to a House vote later in the summer. It’s dead in the water on a procedural vote, and has no chance of passing any vote required in the ratification process, but the Bush Republicans insist on making a show of it in the House.

This isn’t even a misguided and bigoted concern for the “protection” of marriage. It is a desperate concern for the “protection” of GOP control of the Congress.

The polls going into this week’s primary elections showed broad support for a change in the control of the Congress. The right wing has responded to this with a parade of social wedge issues — with attacks on immigration, abortion and gay rights as the lead horses. It’s clear they want to keep the public’s attention away from the disastrous situation in Iraq and that they’re willing to do this by any means necessary.

Come November, the American voters will have their chance to show the administration that such distractions aren’t working. By ousting those who want to trample on gay rights, maybe it’s possible to have a “happily ever after.”

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