Who says Republicans in Washington aren’t pro-union?

On Wednesday, after falling a dozen votes short in the Senate on behalf of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, prominent GOP stalwart Sen. Sam Brownback expressed optimism by declaring: “We have 45 states that have defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman.”

Clearly, that’s the kind of union that the Republican majority on Capitol Hill really supports. If a man and woman want to get hitched, more power to their patriotic souls. But if they want to raise children with the help of family-friendly benefits such as guaranteed healthcare, a living wage and solid parental-leave options — well, they’re on their own. And every political effort will be made to cripple the capacity of labor unions to fight for those rights.

In the news arena where political rhetoric translates into government policies, glib media phrases gain and maintain power by eluding scrutiny. As with the ostensible sanctity of traditional marriage, so with the “pro-life” position.

The exceptions do not negate the general rule that the same politicians and pundits who speak most vehemently about the transcendent preciousness of male-female marriage are the ones who fight hardest against labor rights that are vital for working parents. And the same “pro-life” forces chipping away at abortion rights are the most fervent about “life” defined as what occurs between conception and birth. Afterward, the supposedly “pro-life” position rarely does much in favor of quality healthcare for all children or in opposition to Washington’s latest war.

Perhaps out of undue deference to anti-civil-liberties demagogues who wrap themselves in skewed biblical theology, news outlets often seem to dodge the implications for democracy from such pronouncements as the June 7 statement issued by D. James Kennedy — senior minister of the international Christian broadcaster Coral Ridge Ministries, which operates a lobbying branch called the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ.

“If homosexual marriage takes root in our nation, we will see the same pattern here that has been previewed for us in Scandinavian nations where same-sex arrangements have been made legal,” Kennedy warned. “There, marriage is in decline and illegitimacy is on the rise. Women and children are paying the price there, and will here, if we abandon God’s pattern for marriage.”

President Bush’s move to once again spotlight gay marriage — five months before midterm elections that could lose the Republicans their majority in Congress — is a transparent attempt to fire up the base of social conservatives at a time when his nationwide approval ratings are at new lows. While much of the media coverage has a political-boys-will-be-boys tone, journalists should shine a more searching light on this latest effort at manipulation of the electorate by Karl Rove and his GOP colleagues.

Days ago, the media watch group FAIR (where I’m an associate) put out a media advisory that argued in favor of subjecting the gay-marriage-ban amendment to more substantive journalistic attention. “Some reporters downplayed the seriousness of changing the U.S. Constitution by suggesting that the Republicans’ proposed amendment was a routine political ploy of the sort both parties engage in,” FAIR noted, citing a recent instance when a journalist on CNN likened the Republican move to the Democrats’ push for a congressional vote on raising the minimum wage.

Political maneuvers shouldn’t obscure what’s at stake. “Of course, it’s important for reporters to examine the politics behind Bush’s endorsement of the amendment,” FAIR acknowledged. At the same time, “It’s also helpful to note that the chances of actually amending the Constitution are rather slim. But reporters should treat seriously any effort by the governing party to change the nation’s basic law — and challenge misleading rhetoric and assumptions.”

As FAIR observed, ” . . . there’s a significant legal and qualitative distinction between a constitutional amendment limiting the civil rights of Americans and a legislative attempt to give poor workers a raise.” But such distinctions get lost when media outlets reduce profound legislative decisions to little more than inside-baseball tactics of election strategists. High-powered political consultants may look at those decisions that way, but in the long run our society has deeper reasons to care.

Norman Solomon’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” is now available in paperback. To find out more about Norman Solomon and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate’s website at www.creators.com.

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