Locals react to Bush’s speech | TheUnion.com

Locals react to Bush’s speech

President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday left some local people encouraged, others suspicious and the gay community debating the state of its unions.

Wil Conley, president of the Sierra Gay Men’s Network, listened to the president defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Bush said activist judges are forcing their arbitrary will on the people by redefining marriage for other states, and the only alternative is the constitutional process, he said, alluding to a constitutional amendment.

Conley said Bush’s attack on same-sex marriages was a big joke. He said everywhere he goes with his partner of 10 years, they’re treated like a couple.

Local Mark Schaefer was angered by the president’s comments. He said the problem is that Bush’s reasoning is based on religion.

“Judges are interpreting the Constitution, which says equal protection for everyone,” Schaefer said. “I am not asking for the church to recognize me … all I want is equal rights under the state or country where I live.”

Conley said he, too, wants the same rights and benefits as married people.

“If it has to be called marriage to get those rights, that’s what we want,” he said.

Bush also proposed a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative to help prisoners reintegrate into society after incarceration. The money would be used to expand job training and placement services, and to provide transitional housing and mentoring, including that from faith-based groups, Bush said.

Bill McNamara, executive director of the local Project Jump Start, said the president’s initiative took him by surprise. Project Jump Start advises and refers freed prisoners to agencies that have traditionally provided the services Bush mentioned.

“I am wondering to myself what it’s all about,” McNamara said. “I think it’s just a way to get money to faith-based groups.”

McNamara said he can’t fathom recommending someone to an unlicensed, uncertified organization to provide addiction recovery, for example.

“How are you going to provide housing? … It’s not enough money for that amount of time,” McNamara said.

Bush’s talk of prescription drug coverage under Medicare is a victory, said Marie Smith, president-elect of the American Association of Retired Persons.

But more must be done to lower the cost of drugs, she said in a written statement on the AARP Web site.

Smith said the Prescription Drug Affordability Campaign, launched by AARP last week, calls for the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada – which mirrors one aspect of the Democrats’ response Tuesday after the State of the Union address.

Local Republican Party Chairman Tony Gilchrease said the president’s speech was encouraging. He said Bush has made people feel safer, strengthened the economy by giving tax breaks, and is successfully addressing issues with health care and prescription drugs.

“He is literally stealing some of the Democrats’ thunder because we’re beating them to the punch,” Gilchrease said. “Job well done, Mr. President.”

But the outgoing president of the Democratic Women’s Club, Rachel Rue, said Bush has failed as a president. She said Bush’s proposal to cut the deficit in half in five years is ironic, since he’s the one who created it.

“It’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house. I positively do not trust the man with my money,” Rue said.

Rue said her response mirrors that of Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was shown on TV shaking his head during the president’s address.

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