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Between dominant themes of plans to reform Social Security and continue to fight terrorism, President George W. Bush touched on themes dear to social conservatives in his 2005 State of the Union address Wednesday night.

Following recent criticism after saying he would not spend political capital to pursue a federal marriage amendment because it lacked enough support to pass in the Senate, Bush restated his campaign promise championing support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage,” he said.

Earlier, a group of conservative clergy said they would not mobilize followers to support his plans to privatize Social Security if he backed down from his commitment to ban gay marriage. Many pundits credited high voter turnout from conservative evangelicals with securing Bush’s re-election, prompting Time magazine this week to question, “Does Bush owe the religious right?”

In another apparent bow to religiously conservative voters, the president proclaimed “every judicial nominee deserves and up-or-down vote,” criticizing the Senate for blocking votes on Bush nominees thought likely to oppose the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision establishing a woman’s right to abortion.

Bush also repeated his earlier pledge to “build a culture of life” by opposing cloning of human embryos for medical research. Embryos must “not be created for experimentation,” he said, and human life should never be “bought or sold as a commodity.”

“America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive and always ethical,” he said.

In a 54-minute address, Bush defended proposed changes to Social Security by quoting Democrats including former President Bill Clinton and defended his policy in Iraq as a long-term commitment to democracy and peace in the Middle East.

“The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable,” he concluded, “but we know where it leads. It leads to freedom.”

The president described Social Security as “a great moral success of the 20th century,” but said it must be adapted to survive in the 21st century, in comments that drew negative reaction from Democrats.

He also pledged to “continue to support faith-based and community groups,” which he said, “bring hope to harsh places” in the nation.

Bush also proposed a new three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, to be headed by First Lady Laura Bush.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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