Last week President Bush interrupted regularly programmed television to announce his plan to save us all from the new evil of the world: same-sex couples seeking the right to get married. Apparently, a proposed amendment to the federal constitution limiting marriage to heterosexuals will protect us all.

Protect us from what, exactly? Until now we haven’t heard one concrete example of how the institution of heterosexual marriage and the integrity of our society is threatened when two people of the same sex marry and build a family together based in love, mutual respect, and a lifetime commitment to one another.

The argument that rupturing traditional concepts of marriage would somehow destroy American society is not true now and it wasn’t true in past decades when state laws and cultural norms forbade interracial and inter-religious couples from marrying.

The truth is, when we hear Bush talking about the “sanctity” of traditional marriage what he really is talking about is sending women back to the home and returning same-sex couples to the shadows of our society.

Bush claims that nontraditional family structures, including single-parent households, are the root of all societal problems and thus somehow less honorable. Tell that to the millions of single parents in this country who are struggling to provide stability and love for their families.

If Bush is really concerned about the stability of family life, we would be better served if he restored welfare rights, funding for day care and other social services that have been slashed through his economic policies including drastic tax giveaways for the rich. Perhaps he might do something to restore the 3 million jobs that have disappeared on his watch.

The truth is that our nation is facing many urgent problems, yet they have absolutely nothing to do with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people demanding the right to marry. Since the 1980s and ’90s, pro-corporate policies of successive administrations have thrust millions of American families into poverty and economic desperation. Is that not more devastating to the stability and health of the American family?

The timing of Bush’s announcement about pushing through a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage is not coincidental. This is nothing more than a mean-spirited, calculated attempt to break up the growing anti-Bush sentiment heading into the coming elections.

Not since it was written into the original Constitution that African Americans were to be counted as three-fifths of a human being has language been added to abridge the rights of an entire group of people.

In fact, people have fought and died to extend our constitutional rights and expand human freedom. If Bush really wants to defend the morality and stability of our families, why isn’t he proposing an amendment that would guarantee education, health care and a job to every person living in the United States? Instead he has begun a campaign to demonize same-sex couples whose only demand is to be treated equally under the law.

According to Bush a tiny number of “activist” judges are somehow using their powers to change the entire face of American society. He didn’t oppose certain “activist” judges who changed the outcome of the 2000 elections. In fact, Bush has worked during the last three years to appoint activist judges who would take away rights won after decades of struggle, including women’s reproductive rights, affirmative action and the rights of workers to organize.

We applaud those “activist” judges who have opened the doors for thousands of same-sex couples in recent weeks to file for marriage licenses in the face of local and state laws that would prohibit them from doing so.

We applaud those couples, who take inspiration from the heroic demonstrations of young people in the South in the 1950s and 60s against Jim Crow segregation laws.

President Bush ended his speech last week with these words: “Let us match strong convictions with kindness and good will and decency.” What hypocrisy, when his actions create an environment that makes anti-gay violence and hatred acceptable.

Bush’s opposition to legislation that would classify violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people as hate crimes shows his disregard of even the most fundamental rights of people to live free of discrimination and violence regardless of their sexual orientation.

The truth is that this is not just about whether or not same-sex couples are afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples to marry. This is about guaranteeing the right of all of our people to dignity, respect and equality under the law, and protection of what is enshrined in our nation’s Constitution – the guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jessica Marshall is co-chair of the Young Communist League. Sam Webb is chairperson of the Communist Party USA. They can be reached at pww@pww.org.