Reactions to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality across the United States revealed hypocrisy in both major parties. Democrats would like voters to forget they weren’t always so willing to fight for equal rights while some Republicans are throwing all their other principles overboard just to stop gays marrying.
Let’s start on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton, the party’s inevitable presidential candidate, said most recently she was “celebrating” the court’s decision as a “victory for marriage equality and the generations of advocates and activists who fought to make it possible.”
This ruling is an affirmation of the commitment of couples across the country who love one another. […] And it represents our country at its best: inclusive, open and striving toward true equality.
Which sounds wonderful except it wasn’t until a few years ago that Clinton came out in support of gay marriage. The Washington Post put together a list of her statements on gay rights at the time which includes quotes like this from 2000: “Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.”
And from 2007, justifying her opposition to marriage quality: “I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions.”
Now the person who celebrated second-class unions for gays the last time she ran for president is supposed to be the cheerleader of marriage equality?
The most generous explanation is that Clinton — like millions of Americans — has changed her mind. That as countries and states started legalizing gay marriage and it dawned on everyone that they had perfectly normal and kind gay men and women among their friends and in their family, it became harder to justify denying them the right to marry.
Andrew Sullivan, a prominent gay blogger, is less forgiving, writing about the Clintons last year, “As long as marriage equality hurt the Democrats, they were against it. Now it may even hurt Republicans, they’re for it. So Hillary is for it now. We’ve just got to hope the polling stays strong.”
If Clinton’s views on gay rights — which she herself said are human rights when she was secretary of state — are at least partially informed by political expediency, some Republicans are worse. They are challenging the very constitutional order America is built on in order to deny gays equal rights.
Ted Cruz, the firebrand Texas senator who is running for the party’s presidential nomination, called for a constitutional amendment on Saturday that would allow voters to recall Supreme Court justices. Separation of powers and judicial independence apparently go out of the window as soon as gays are allowed to marry.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, another presidential hopeful whose popularity is confined to evangelics, urged civil disobedience. “We will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch,” he said. “We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”
Worse, Huckabee justified his position by suggesting his own religious views trump the law.
In all of our lives there comes moments where have to decide whether we obey God or we obey a decision we believe is unlawful.
These aren’t comments worthy of a party that is always first to defend the Constitution and its separation of church and state. The Founders Huckabee appeals to would never subjugate the law to religious opinion. We know because they said so clearly and repeatedly.
Huckabee and his supporters claim they are advocating “religious liberty” when, taken to their logical conclusion, what they’re saying means the opposite: the suppression of the rule of law, which exists to defend liberty, in the name of faith. Such views don’t belong in a secular republic.
Fortunately, most Republicans don’t share Cruz’ and Huckabee’s egregious views. Indeed, most are learning to live with gay marriage, as the Atlantic Sentinel reported in April.
“We live in a republic and must abide by the law,” said Marco Rubio, another presidential contender.
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who is considered the frontrunner for the nomination, said he still opposes marriage equality. But he added, “I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.”
Unlike Cruz and Huckabee, Bush and Rubio could actually win the primary battle and their reluctance to engage in a culture war over gay rights is part of the reason why.
60 percent of young Republicans supports marriage equality. A majority of Americans of all ages does. A report commissioned by the Republican National Committee after the party was defeated in the 2012 presidential election recognized that “there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be.”
If Republicans want to start winning presidential elections again, they need to stop banging on about gays and talk instead about the issues that matter to ordinary Americans: jobs, opportunity, the cost of living, taxes, entitlement programs. There is no political career in homophobia anymore.