President George W. Bush’s recent press conference, during which he spoke against gay marriage, has prompted a host of rebuttals from many opposing voices, gay and straight alike. Singer-songwriter Bob Mould does not mince words when it comes to airing his feelings for Bush’s declarations; the former Sugar and Husker Du frontman was incensed by the President’s comments. “Who is he to decide what is right for civilization?” Mould asks. “Who is he to tell the world how we should perceive two people wanting equal protection under the already existing system?”
Bush’s comments — “I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we’ve got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.” — fell just weeks before the Massachusetts’ Supreme Court is expected to announce a ruling on gay marriages.
Mould, himself an out, gay man, is concerned that the President continues to correlate gay partnerships with a church ceremony, a move Mould sees as a manipulative way to keep the political right against gay unions. “To me, when people say gay marriage, bells and whistles go off,” he says. “The fact that the right is making a gigantic moral issue of it should outrage most Americans. If you take the religious argument out of the picture, you eliminate a lot of rhetoric that the right base their arguments on.”
Spearhead frontman Michael Franti is himself a married, straight political activist and admits to being very frustrated by the dichotomy between gay acceptance in public and the slowness of change in the political arena. “I am absolutely comfortable with calling this a human rights issue,” he says. “Like I say in my song ‘Oh My God’ I don’t give a fuck who they’re screwing in private, I wanna know who they’re screwing in public. To me it is so irrelevant at this point. I believe firmly that our children are gonna look back on this time the same way that we look upon witch burning today.”
Kaia Wilson, founding member and frontwoman of punk band the Butchies has been out for fourteen years, and admits that all the recent attention to the battle for gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered rights have evoked emotions that run the gamut from impatience to hope to anger. “For me, when the sodomy law got overturned [in June 2003], I got more pissed off by being reminded that it was there in the first place,” she says. “When it got overturned, I was like fuck you! Thanks a lot for taking that goddamn archaic law off the books. Now can you maybe give us our basic human rights?”
Wilson is also concerned about the long-term ramifications of the President’s moral beliefs. “What really sucks is how all his words — with his access to the media — are going to trickle down and affect law, affect homophobia,” she says. “When I first came out, one in three teen suicides was gay-related. Fourteen years later, that figure hasn’t changed.” Wilson charges that comments like Bush’s simply reinforce that “queers are denied basic rights. We are constantly having to fight being second-class citizens. The messages that I get [from Bush’s statements] are you’re a pervert and your relationship with your partner is not important.”
Mould reinforces the points of his fellow musicians by making it clear that, in his opinion, he is simply looking for basic equal rights under the law. “I’m talking about a civil union where people are making life commitments and they want to jointly own property and raise children and retire and be buried side by side,” he says. “What is the problem with extending the basic rights that everyone else has inherently? If most Americans saw it in those terms they would not feel threatened, they would not feel that their religious morale had been compromised.”