Against All Logic, Republican Presidential Candidates Vow to Keep Fighting Gay Marriage

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Here’s Jeb Bush’s statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to bring gay marriage to all 50 states:

Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.

It’s not a great statement, but it’s about what I’d expect from Republican presidential candidates right now. Bush states his personal opposition to same-sex marriage and his affirmation of states’ rights. And he makes the same bullshit call for religious freedom that conservatives have been demanding for the past year or so. (This is just dog-whistle politics for bigots. Religion was used as a weapon against desegregation and interracial marriage, too.) But a good portion of the statement is made up of a call for tolerance, which is what we should expect out of our politicians. Both Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, who made his name as Jeb Bush’s mini-me, released similar statements.

But the rest of the Republican field seems to be forcefully protesting the decision. Of course Mike Huckabee, who I’ve recently decided is the worst man running for president this year, issued a predictably unhinged statement, basically threatening another civil war:

I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.

Likewise, Rick Santorum unsurprisingly went full homophobe.

But I am surprised by Governor Scott Walker, who issued a scorched-earth statement that will haunt his presidential campaign forever. Walker chastises the court from the very beginning: “Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage, an institution that the author of this decision acknowledges ‘has been with us for millennia.” Walker continues:

As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.

This push to rescind same-sex marriage might play well with the hardcore Republican base that shows up for the primaries, but it’s suicide in the general election. Roughly sixty percent of Americans currently favor gay marriage. Those numbers go even higher when you remove Republicans. A vast majority of Democrats and independents favor gay marriage, as do young voters. Walker’s aggressive push for exclusion throws a huge brick wall between himself and those voters. I loathe Walker’s politics, but I thought he was a smarter politician than this. The American people have decided that they want inclusiveness; Walker openly expressing disgust at that decision is reckless and stupid.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.