It was fascinating yesterday, in the wake of the high court’s historic gay marriage rulings, to see so many furious Republicans chewing the carpet. Apparently they didn’t heed the dire warnings – from their own party leaders – about the political risks of being perceived as bigots.
In its March report on the 2012 election debacle, the Republican National Committee said: “We must change our tone – especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.”
Last month, another report by the College Republican National Committee, warned that for an ever-growing percentage of young mainstream voters, ongoing GOP hostility to gay marriage is a “deal breaker.” And the party’s sanest strategists have tried to point out that this hostility is political suicide, given the fact that the American mainstream now supports gay marriage – 53 percent in a May Gallup poll, 55 percent in a June CNN/ORC poll.
But, alas, lots of Republicans – along with their religious conservative allies, who continue to crack the whip – still seem bent on suicide. They still cannot grasp the concept of being welcoming and inclusive. Their big problem is, they can’t help being who they really are. So, yesterday afternoon, they brandished shovels and commenced to dig themselves, and their party, an even deeper hole.
In fact, some of the remarks shared a common theme. You’ll spot it soon enough.
Mike Huckabee: “Jesus wept….Five people in robes say they are bigger than God. May He forgive us all.”
New Jersey congressman Scott Garrett: “A court decision cannot decide moral questions for the people.”
Texas congressman Louie Gohmert: “What we have today is a holy (judicial) quintent who goes against the laws of nature.”
Religious right activist Rick Scarborough: “The definition of marriage is not within the purview of the United States Supreme Court, or any other court for that matter. God defines marriage.”
Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention: “Defining marriage for the American people is way above the Supreme Court’s pay grade. God created marriage and He has defined its parameters.”
Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann: “No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”
Democracy, not theocracy
See the pattern? What repulses so many swing mainstream voters – especially young voters, who are the future – is the Republican right’s insistence on playing the God card, on imposing their concept of God on everybody else. But last I heard, there’s a concept in America known as the separation of church and state.
Marriage policy, and the dispensation of federal benefits to spouses, is a matter for secular government. The definition and recognition of marriage is a matter for secular government. Right-wing moralists are free to condemn what the high court did yesterday, religious conservative ministers are free to banish gay marriage ceremonies from their realms, fuse, and Republican politicians are free to claim that they’re channeling God when they rail against the rulings. But when they try to turn our democracy into a theocracy, they go too far.
And, sure enough, there’s a plan to do just that. (This plan will die because it’s politically nuts; but, remember, these people are guided by a higher power.) Yesterday, Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp announced that he’ll revive the idea of enacting a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage everywhere, even in the states that have already legalized it. He said, “This will trump the Supreme Court.”
For Democrats yesterday, Huelskamp’s announcement was truly a kick-back-with-popcorn moment. They’d be thrilled if the constitutional amendment idea, dead since 2006, were resurrected. Nothing would better advertise the growing chasm between the GOP and the American mainstream. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan all voted for that constitutional amendment when it failed to pass the House in 2006. How delicious it would be for Democrats – and how politically insane it would be for Republicans – if those Republican leaders had to spend the next weeks and months dodging the question of whether they’d vote Yes again.
The next gay marriage battle
House Speaker Boehner didn’t touch that issue yesterday, but he did make the requisite rhetorical bow to the GOP base. He said he was “disappointed” with the high court ‘s rulings in favor of marriage equality, and “it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.” Moreover, he’ll have a fresh opportunity to shovel the GOP deeper, because the court decrees have actually opened up a whole new front in the gay rights battle.
The court (or, as Huelskamp called it, “the narrow radical majority”) ruled yesterday that wedded gay couples, residing in the states where such marriages are legal, are entitled to the 1,138 federal benefits that straight couples enjoy. But the ruling failed to address a critical issue: What happens, for instance, if a gay couple legally married in New York later decides to move to Pennsylvania – where gays can’t get married? Can that New York couple still get those same federal benefits? Apparently not.
So gay civil rights groups, backed by congressional Democrats, want to ensure, via new legislation, that a legally married gay couple can get the fed bounty regardless of where they live – in other words, to ensure that “state of ceremony” trumps “state of residence.” It’s called the Respect for Marriage Act; the Republican lawmakers are sure to oppose it, because they’re hard-wired to do so. And the hole they’ve been digging will get even deeper.
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