Gay and lesbian rights advocates have accused US president George Bush of aligning himself with anti-gay extremists, after the president announced this week would be dedicated to protecting marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) executive director Joan Garry said the president was speaking on behalf of a group of right-wing organisations, some of which paid staff to campaign against equal rights for the gay and lesbian community.

President Bush has just endorsed an organised agenda of bigotry, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance, Garry said. Such attempts to deny protections to some American families are in fact an attack on all American families.

Bush proclaimed 12-18 October to be Marriage Pro-tection Week in a press release on the White House website, in support of a coalition of conservative groups across the US. The co-sponsors of Marriage Protection Week include the American Family Association, which claims there is a homosexual conspiracy to abolish marriage altogether, and Phyllis Schlafly, who travels around universities warning female students about the dangers of feminism.

In his announcement, Bush said the Week would provide an opportunity to focus our efforts on preserving the sanctity of marriage and on building strong and healthy marriages in America.

Bush went on to say: Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and my Administration is working to support the institution of marriage by helping couples build successful marriages and be good parents.

Bush quoted unnamed research which found children fared better when they grew up with married parents.

While conservative groups have heralded the president’s message, the Metropolitan Community Church fought back by making its own proclamation, naming 12-19 October Marriage Equality Week.

MCC founder Reverend Troy Perry sent a message to all of the MCC chapels in the US, asking them to observe Marriage Equality Week, and for pastors to include messages of support for same-sex marriage in their Sunday sermons.

Meantime, Matthew Shepard’s mother Judy Shepard has used the fifth anniversary of her son’s murder to make a public call for gay and lesbian equality in USA Today.

The fifth anniversary of Shepard’s murder fell on the first day of Marriage Protection Week.

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