Evangelical leaders insist they know how gay marriage affects their voters--they'll stay home if politicians don't push for the FMA. "It's the one issue I have seen that eclipses even the abortion issue among Southern Baptists," says Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last month James Dobson, the influential founder of Focus on the Family, met privately with key Republicans, including Frist, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader John Boehner, to warn them about the political consequences of failing to promote issues like marriage. "If you forget us, we'll forget you," he said, according to a GOP House leadership aide who was briefed on the gatherings, but declined to be identified discussing private meetings.
Though Bush himself has publicly embraced the amendment, he never seemed to care enough to press the matter. One of his old friends told NEWSWEEK that same-sex marriage barely registers on the president's moral radar. "I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a s--t about it. He never talks about this stuff," said the friend, who requested anonymity to discuss his private conversations with Bush. White House aides, who also declined to be identified, insist that the president does care about banning gay marriage. They say Monday's events with amendment supporters--Bush will also meet privately with a small group--have been in the works "for weeks" and aren't just a sop to conservatives.
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