Take it as yet another sign of how quickly things have changed for same-sex couples: when George H.W. Bush was sworn into office as the 41st President of the United States in 1989, gay marriage was barely on the national political radar in the U.S. The federal government there had yet to formally define marriage at all (that came with the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996), and state sodomy laws had yet to be overturned (that happened in 2003). But last weekend, the former president, now 89, presided as a witness over the same-sex marriage of two longtime friends in Kennebunkport, Maine, the AP reports.
Gay marriage became legal in Maine only last December, when a bill was approved by a popular vote of 53–47 per cent. Bush's spokesman Jim McGrath told the Washington Post, however, that his presence at the wedding of Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen shouldn't be taken as a wider-ranging endorsement. “They were private citizens attending a private ceremony for two friends,” he said.
“This is such a wonderful time for change in our legal system,” Clement told the Post. “Who would be best to help us acknowledge the importance of our wedding as our friends and as the former leader of the free world. When they agreed to do so we just felt that it was the next acknowledgment of being ‘real and normal.’”
For his part, Bush's son George W. Bush made headlines in July when he declined to come out against same-sex marriage, echoing the gospel of Matthew when he said he "shouldn't be taking a speck out of someone else's eye when I have a log in my own."