Let's be honest about it. The Republicans don't want to "defend the sanctity of marriage." First of all, whatever they mean by "the sanctity of marriage," it is not under attack. And secondly, it's not up to the government to defend sanctity in any event. (See Texas Senator John Cornyn on the Marriage Amendment, Bush and the "sanctity of marriage", Orrin G. Hatch on The Federal Marriage Amendment, Senator Sam Brownback on Marriage, and President Defends the Sanctity of Marriage for earlier posts on this subject.)
What this is really about is to appeal to the discomfort many people feel with homosexuality. Just as quotas has been a code-word for racism, the sanctity of marriage is a codeword for gay bashing. The Republicans can't come straight out and say lets get the blacks or lets get gays; so they say let's be against quotas and let's be in favor of marriage. In the same way they are not anti-abortion, they are pro-life. They are not opposed to the inheritance tax, they are opposed to the death tax.
This is all very clever and has worked quite well for them. Only recently have progressives begun to respond in kind. The Rockridge Institute is working on framing issues from a more progressive perspective.
But let's get back to the Intolerance Amendment. Many Americans are uncomfortable with homosexuality. (Many Americans are uncomfortable speaking about sex of any sort.) But most Americans are also quite tolerant. We are proud to think of ourselves as the land of the free, and we generally try to tolerate most people as long as they don't interfere with our own lives.
The Intolerance Amendment is an attempt by the Bush administration to write into our constitution a clause both explicitly and implicitly intended to restrict the rights of gays and lesbians. That is simply un-American. It is just plain wrong to defile our constitution, the document that we proudly hail as the guarantor of our freedoms, with what amounts to prettified hate speech. Once Americans understand that, once they understand the depths to which the Republicans are willing to stoop to retain power, they will reject them for it.
Many Americans are uncomfortable with homosexuality. But it is shameful for the Republicans to attempt to exploit that discomfort, to disgrace our constitution, as a way of holding desperately onto political power. They should be embarrassed for themselves. No one with any real sense of values would do anything like that.