- - Sunday, June 28, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION: 

Republicans running for president in 2016 took a giant step backward last week as the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal and must be allowed by all 50 states.

First, let’s do one simple exercise: Substitute “interracial” for “same-sex.” Argument over. States can no more outlaw same-sex marriage than they can ban interracial marriage (although nearly half the states once prohibited that). A California Supreme Court decision in 1948, Perez v. Sharp, was the first to strike down such anti-miscegenation laws, saying they violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed a couple of decades later in the more-famous Loving case that expanded the ban on such laws nationwide. Same with gay marriage.

Skip ahead to last Friday, 67 years after Perez. GOP presidential candidates tried to out-shout each other over the historic ruling, calling it anti-Christian, anti-family and anti-Constitution. It was, in fact, none of those things.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was among the most vehement, saying the 5-4 decision would “pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.”

“Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” said Mr. Jindal, who also thinks schools should decide whether to teach evolution. But as my son likes to say, how does two gay men getting married invalidate a Christian couple’s church marriage? It doesn’t, so the ruling isn’t anti-Christian.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina decried the ruling, saying the court “should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience for those Americans that profoundly disagree with today’s decision.” Well, the 14th Amendment does that. Now, states cannot “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” So the ruling isn’t anti-constitutional.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who along with Mr. Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania are running campaigns geared toward religious conservatives, said only God can define marriage. “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage,” he said. “We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who plans to enter the race next month, said states will now have to take up the issue and may have to amend the U.S. Constitution. “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,” Mr. Walker said.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who in April filed text for just such a constitutional amendment, said the justices’ ruling “is lawless, and in doing so, they have undermined the fundamental legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.”

On and on they went.

In the end, each and every one of these Republicans will be deemed to have been on the wrong side of history. Of course they’re wrong. Marriage in a church — in the eyes of God — is a completely different matter. Religions will decide who they will marry (and nearly all, at this point, anyway, do not wed same-sex couples). The ruling means only that gays can get a “marriage” license from the government, receive the same Social Security benefits as heterosexuals, file taxes jointly, visit a loved one in the hospital during “family only” hours, and have parental rights over children they adopt (so, the ruling wasn’t anti-family, either).

Now, far fewer states than banned interracial marriage still outlawed same-sex marriage — just 14. More, America’s opinion of gay marriage has rapidly changed in just the last 20 years. In 1996, 68 percent of those surveyed in a Gallup poll opposed gay marriage, with just 27 percent supporting. In 2015, 60 percent support while 37 oppose. So everything has changed (in part because gays who were once “in the closet” are out now, and nearly every American knows someone who is gay).

But that’s not the worst part for Republicans hoping to win the White House. They lost in 2012 (in part) because President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage (which he said he opposed in 2008). Still, that didn’t decide the election — gays make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. But what Mr. Obama was going for was the youth vote — many people 18-25 view themselves as more tolerant and progressive, and the president’s change of mind brought them to the polls in droves.

The worst part for Republicans is that same-sex marriage is the very definition of conservatism, at least in this single way: Conservatives decry government intrusion into the lives of Americans, and what could be more intrusive than the government setting boundaries on — love?

Republicans — all but Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, who took more temperate views of the Supreme Court decision — have been left arguing that government, and government alone, should decide an individual’s right to marriage. Mr. Walker’s and Mr. Cruz’s calls for a constitutional amendment are a laughable big-government response that true conservatives should abhor.

And once again, Republicans look Neanderthal: They can’t answer questions on whether evolution is real, they argue against vaccinations, they call for government to intervene in the personal lives of Americans.

This, people, is how you lose another presidential election.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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