Golden Silence? You'd think the Bushies could explain why same-sex marriage is so dangerous, but so far we haven't heard an answer – which could be great news for Democrats. By Michelangelo Signorile, Web Exclusive Two years ago it was Afghanistan. Last year it was Iraq. This year? massachusetts, San Francisco, and Sandoval County, New Mexico – the all-new "axis of evil." Osama bin Laden's deputy has just released a tape yesterday in which he threatened mayhem and destruction, and CIA Director George Tenet warned Congress of new terrorist attacks. But never mind. The newest terrorists in the Bushies' minds – in addition to the teachers who make up the National Education Association, whom Education Secretary Rod Paige actually dubbed "terrorists" this week – are a lot easier to find, living openly as they do in blue-state enclaves. Their deadly and dangerous leaders include Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, pioneering lesbian activists and the first gay couple to get married in the City by the Bay. "In San Francisco, city officials have issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender," a somber George W. Bush declared in a televised daytime press briefing that preempted programming up and down the dial, as if it were an announcement of the latest invasion. "A county in New Mexico has also issued marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender." Will Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld begin sending in troops? Someone's got to do something, after all, as Governor Terminator, aka Arnold Schwarzenegger, claims these events will lead to rioting, civil unrest, and "dead people" in the streets of California. (Like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, however, there's not a shred of evidence to support such claims.) Perhaps Secretary of State Colin Powell will go to the United Nations and show grainy aerial photos of trailer parks in the desert outside Roswell, inhabited by lesbian grandmas plotting to undermine the foundations of heterosexuality. You'd think someone in the White House could address the very simple question of what danger same-sex marriage poses to any one heterosexual marriage. But so far, the Bushies are grasping and groping more feverishly than even Schwarzenegger on his friskiest day. "So how does gay marriage weaken society, in the president's view?" asked a reporter of White House spokesman Scott McClellan at the White House press briefing. McClellan: "Well, this goes to the issue of an institution that is enduring and lasting. The president said in his remarks that this is the most fundamental institution in our civilization … ." Reporter: "But, specifically, how does allow – how does allowing gay marriage, allowing two people of the same sex to marry, how does that weaken our society?" McClellan: "It's a strong value of our society. It's a strong value of our civilization. And we should protect and defend those kinds of enduring institutions in our society." The grilling went on for quite a while, with McClellan not able to come up with anything less feeble than that. The president hadn't done any better in his briefing. "If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America," Bush said. So we're going to embark on a constitutional amendment – a monumental, divisive, enormously debilitating process – to protect the "meaning" of something? In that case, the amendment had better apply to New York Times headline writers, who certainly distorted the meaning of marriage with this shocker in a recent Dining Out section: "Happy Marriage Between Eggs and Greens." Interestingly, Bush saying that he would support a federal marriage amendment is a measure of Democrats' success. So pummeled by a fairly unified Democratic Party and exposed regarding the difficulties in the Iraq War and on his economic plan (not to mention his own military record), Bush has become desperate as his poll numbers continue to plummet. His immigration plan and his reckless spending angered his base, and the Mars proposal went nowhere in the public's imagination. But David Kay's admissions of no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq perhaps have had the greatest impact, forcing the administration to scramble and change the subject. I remember saying several times on my radio program last year that those gay people like myself who have been staunchly opposed to the Iraq War had better be careful what we wish for: After all, if the country wakes up and realizes this entire invasion is a sham, the Bush administration will suddenly pull that marriage amendment off the back burner (where it has been for more than a year), particularly since the Massachusetts decision was due out. I even gave a name to this strategy: "Wag the Fag." So here we are. And actually, it feels better in a weird way – more honest. Gay Republicans have suddenly stopped spinning in their dervishes of denial, at least momentarily. Groups like the Log Cabin Republicans deluded themselves for more than three years, backing Bush even as he promoted abstinence-only programs at the expense of AIDS-education ones that work, supported Senator Rick Santorum after the Pennsylvania Republican's vile tatements about gays, and pushed hard for discriminatory faith-based programs. They stood by him – making an occasional tepid criticism, but still backing him – as Bush nominated individuals like Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who compared homosexuality to "necrophilia" and fought against repealing sodomy laws. (Last weekend, in another slap, Bush brazenly installed Pryor in a recess appointment after the guy had been filibustered by the Democrats because of his extremism.) After three years of calling Bush's critics members of a traitorous "fifth column," you have to admit that it's rather delicious seeing Andrew Sullivan deciding that Bush has declared "war" on him, and admitting, "I guess I really was naive." In this way, I feel bizarrely thankful to Bush for finally drawing the battle lines more clearly so that apologists like Sullivan can't deny any longer the sham of "compassionate conservatism." Risking the loss of the apologists – and perhaps many independents, moderate Republicans, and some Democrats – couldn't have been an easy decision for the Bush camp. Karl Rove is hoping that the Christian right's devotion and turnout will now outweigh anything that counteracts it. But he shouldn't be so sure. For gays and lesbians, this amendment is equivalent to the Stonewall Rebellion, to Anita Bryant's crusade, and to the government's negligence at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, at least in terms of enraging people and moving them to action. Already there have been rallies in the streets of Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, and more are on the way. And the alliances that have been built among gays and the larger progressive movement today can't be underestimated. It was gays and young progressives of every stripe, after all, who catapulted Howard Dean and now need a place to funnel their energy. And for many progressives the marriage amendment is less about same-sex marriage than about government control and the reshaping of the laws of our country – a further extension of the USA Patriot Act and projects like Total Information Awareness. Bush's speech might one day be looked back upon as a turning point, much like Pat Buchanan's speech at the Republican convention or Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" – the beginning of the end. The White House is either so arrogant that it doesn't see that or so desperate that it simply believes it doesn't have a choice. Either way, it could be a stellar moment for the Democrats – if they take up the challenge rather than go on the run.