Laura Bush: Pro-choice, Pro-gay marriage, and tolerant

The big news on the Web today comes from former US First Lady Laura Bush, who on Larry King Live stated that she believed abortion should be legal, both for medical and elective reasons, and that gay marriage should be legal and, with generational change, eventually will be. She doesn’t treat her opinion as authoritative, and she never once implies that someone who disagrees with her is wrong. She says she understands the viewpoint of her husband, who is staunchly opposed to both of these social issues, but also says that they respect the difference between them.

Very classy. Well done, Laura.

However, Focus on the Family came out with a rather revealing statement on Mrs. Bush’s opinions:

It’s disappointing to hear Laura Bush, who is a well respected and admired former first lady, espouse positions on marriage and the value of human life that are contrary not only to her husband’s but arguably, according to polls, in conflict with the majority of Americans.

Focus on the Family really ought to be called Focus on the Heterosexual Male Dominated Family. It’s rather telling that this organisation feels that Mrs. Bush was only respected and admired when she kept her opinions under wraps, and the utter cliché of shaming her for disagreeing with her husband and head is laughable. Not only is this naughty disobedient wife not resigning her brain to her husband’s opinions the way God told her to, she might be in disagreement with the Conservative Club. What a disgusting display of nonconformity!

Laura Bush has always conducted herself as a very classy person. It was refreshing to hear a genteel southern drawl modestly advocating equality and choice, standing as a polite but opposite viewpoint to the barking redneck twang that you usually associate with commentary on gay marriage.

Liberals are bashing Laura Bush for not speaking up on this issue whilst her husband was in office, especially when he called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This is unfair. Mrs. Bush has never been an elected official, and her role as First Lady was not to legislate or attempt to influence the political process. It would have been inappropriate for her to abuse her access to the American people, as well as an inappropriate public break with her husband. Couples who have disagreements shouldn’t air them publicly; it’s tacky and unhealthy for the marriage. Had she gotten involved, she would have certainly been bashed for meddling with an office to which she was not elected. And, as Mrs. Bush herself has put it, her opinions are her own. She allows others their opinions, whether or not they agree.

Bravo, Mrs. Bush. Good on you.

8 thoughts on “Laura Bush: Pro-choice, Pro-gay marriage, and tolerant

  1. Bravo indeed!

    Props to Mrs Bush for presenting her opinion in the way she did, and nice job to you Molly on explaining her approach to the issue in the past.

  2. I have to say, I disagree. Where were these opinions when they counted, when her husband was president? I generally respect people more when they choose what’s right over what’s politic, or easy. To me, saying this stuff now–when it no longer has any effect on her husband’s political career–is convenient.

    A woman can be classy, and still have opinions of her own. Personally, I find women who prioritize their husbands’ career goals over what they (apparently) honestly and truly believe is right, are missing the mark. What example is this setting for young girls? That it’s OK to have opinions of your own, and stand up for what you believe, so long as it doesn’t conflict with your husband’s career goals?

    I’d like to see some truly independent women praised as classy.

    • It’s a fair criticism. But I think I was able to be okay with Mrs. Bush not being more publicly vocal about her opinions because it seems to be her choice. I don’t know if the wife of a president is obligated to make her political opinions public. Some women may choose that, others may not. She doesn’t seem to be interested in taking a leadership role in political action, so I won’t begrudge her choosing not to.

      What I’d really like to know is the behind-the-scenes story. How much did her love for her husband and her belief in equality and choice collide? If one of us had to choose between supporting our spouse and voicing political opinions that we hold but aren’t vehement about, how differently would we act? Were there any rough conversations between the two of them where she attempted to dissuade her husband from pushing for anti-gay legislation?

      And perhaps she should have “come out” as a progressive before now, but at least she has, and I suppose I want to give her credit for that. Escaping political PR machines can be nearly impossible, and perhaps it was not until now that she knew she would be able to go into an interview without being censored by the Republican Party.

      • Mrs. Bush has, I think, a responsibility as a role model–and I think it’s important to show women, particularly young women, that you can disagree with your husband and still have a happy marriage. A healthy relationship tolerates different goals. If I disagree with my husband, out of a sincere belief that he’s taking the wrong course, am I failing to support him? I don’t think so, but I realize some, who hold with a more traditional “stand by your man”-type model, may disagree. I’d like to see Mrs. Bush, and other women in the public eye, stand by their men by actively supporting them in their goals.

        I suppose, because I’m pretty much a rabid feminist, that I’m touchy on this issue 🙂 I’d like to see non-traditional women lauded as classy more often. I’d also like to see more examples of (functional) non-traditional marriages. I worry, increasingly, about how to teach my own hypothetical future children healthy lessons about men, women, and equality.

        And, I agree. It would be interesting to know more. I can’t imagine being married to someone who didn’t share my basic views about equality. Jim and I disagree on many things (including religion), but we share the same core values, and for that I’m supremely grateful.

  3. Also, I’d like to add,

    * Since when is a woman standing up for what she believes “abusing” her access to the American public? Whether now or then, she still has access by virtue of being first lady. It seems to me that, by this logic, she should keep her opinions to herself entirely.
    * Why is it inappropriate, publicly or privately, for a woman to disagree with her husband?
    * A major constitutional rights issue is not, to my mind, a private disagreement. No, couples should, arguably, not make their personal disagreements public–but this is not a personal disagreement. I think the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are directly affected by this issue might find the idea that their rights are nothing more than a “marital spat” offensive. Moreover, Mr. and Mrs. Bush are public officials. If these were Mormon leaders, would you support the idea of not speaking out for equality, for fear of upsetting one’s husband, equally desirable?

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t get behind the idea of a “classy” woman supporting her husband by staying silent. I think that, actually, it’s neither “tacky” nor “unhealthy for the marriage” for a husband and wife to cooperate as equals.

  4. I can’t really judge her harshly for not being more public when her husband was president. On the one hand, I certainly wouldn’t think it inappropriate for a first lady to be open about her own opinions — just because she wasn’t elected, doesn’t mean she has no right to speak her mind when people shine the spotlight on her. OTOH, she didn’t choose to be placed under the spotlight, and different temperaments respond differently to public exposure.

    • If she didn’t choose to be in the spotlight, then that would mean her husband never consulted her about his political ambitions, or sought her support. I prefer to think that theirs was a team effort, and that she supported his quest to become president. Jim wasn’t a lawyer when we met (and neither was I), but I was certainly aware of his ambitions and, indeed, helped him to achieve them–as he’s helped me to achieve mine. Politicians, like actors, aren’t “different”; they put their pants on the same way. Surely, she decided to run for office just as much as he did?

      • Maybe it’s the case that Laura Bush holds those opinions as an individual, but fighting for the gay cause and abortion rights just isn’t a priority to her. Equality and freedom of choice (especially as they are affected by religion) are incredibly important issues for me, which is why I write about them. Perhaps she holds the opinion enough to state it when asked, but isn’t interested in being a crusader on that particular issue. Her real passions are promoting libraries and fighting heart disease. I think both of those things are incredibly important, but I’m not going to any benefit dinners any time soon. Nobody has time to aggressively fight for every good cause; we all have to choose where we’re going to prioritise our efforts. I think there is still value in someone of prominence stating that they support gay marriage and abortion rights without having it be a major issue for them.

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