Members of the Iraqi National Assembly are still struggling to come to an agreement on how the country's new constitution should handle a controversial issue: gay marriage. The delay in completing a constitution for Iraq comes as a blow to the Bush Administration which went into Iraq more than two years ago in order to defend traditional marriage.
Bush Administration lowering expectations that it can defend traditional marriage in Iraq
BAGHDAD--Members of the Iraqi National Assembly have just seven days to come to terms with perhaps the most controversial issue facing their newly liberated nation: gay marriage. But reaching an agreement won't be easy. Iraqis are deeply divided about the best way to defend the Judeo-Christian institution of marriage.
A blow to the Bush Administration
The failure of Iraqi politicians to reach agreement on a final constitution comes as a blow to the Bush Administration, which went into Iraq more than two years ago in an effort to defend traditional marriage. In recent weeks, President Bush has seen his poll numbers sag and has faced mounting questions from his conservative base about his commitment to traditional marriage in Iraq. In response, Mr. Bush has urged his critics to be patient, warning that the transition from a secular culture to a theocracy is no less difficult in Iraq than it is in the US.
Defending marriage abroad—so we don't have to defend it here
Banning gay marriage here remains at the very top of the Bush Administration agenda. Under the rule of Saddam Hussein, gay marriage was not only permitted but encouraged. In fact Mr. Hussein himself often officiated at gay weddings during the rare weekends he had off from his tyrannical role.
'Moral issues' on top
For ordinary Iraqis, banning gay marriage remains a top priority, well ahead of fresh water, employment or access to electricity. Pro-marriage activist Sandy Slokum, executive director of Defend Our Marriages, an Arlington, VA advocacy group, recently returned from a trip to Fallujah where she has been advising Defend Fallujah Marriage, a grassroots organization in the Central Iraqi city that is using lobbying and other pressure tactics to sway members of the Iraqi National Assembly in favor of the marriage amendment.
"As I travel around Iraq, I hear over and over again from people that defending traditional marriage is what matters most to them. They look at Belgium and Norway and they are scared to death that that's what the future holds for Iraq—a future in which marriage is meaningless."
Attention shifts to judges
Iraqi pro-family organizations are already preparing for a bitter battle over the replacement for Iraq's top judge, Chief Investigative Judge Raid Juhi, expected to step down later this summer. Their top choice: a conservative religious candidate who will finally breach the separation between church and state once and for all. "For so many years, God was basically banished from the public square here," says Sandy Slokum. "Now we finally have a chance to undo some of that damage."
Do you think seven days is enough time for the Iraqi National Assembly to ban gay marriage AND civil unions? Talk back to Elke Drumfeld.