GOP 2016 hopefuls weigh court’s gay marriage punt
Some potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates said the Supreme Court decision to let same-sex marriage stand in dozens of states settles the issue — but religious conservatives vowed to continue to fight, saying opposing gay marriage remains a litmus test for White House hopefuls.
Robert Vander Plaats, head of Family Leader, a Christian conservative organization in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucuses, said would-be candidates will have to lay out a strategy for fighting back.
“What is your leadership strategy to right this ship? What’s your remedy to this leftist takeover by judges, who are flying in the face of ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God?’” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, one of those eyeing a 2016 bid, has already risen to the challenge. The Texas Republican, who recently won the presidential straw poll at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, called the court’s decision “tragic” and vowed to introduce a constitutional amendment that would bar “the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.”
The fight stems from justices’ decision not to hear appeals of a string of lower-court decisions that struck down gay marriage bans in Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana. The justices did not explain their decision, but at least four votes on the nine-judge court are needed to add the cases to the docket.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, called the court’s decision “cowardly.”
But other prominent Republicans took a more muted approach, with some seemingly eager to use the court decisions to try to push the GOP past the hot-button social issue.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 White House candidate, said the court’s refusal to take up the cases means the issue was now settled for his state.
“In light of the action by the United States Supreme Court, Wisconsin will uphold the law as set by the federal Court of Appeals,” said Walker spokesperson Laurel Patrick.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also mentioned as a candidate, said “people are free to disagree with court decisions, but we are not free to disobey them.”
“Hoosiers may be assured that I and my administration will uphold the rulings of our federal courts concerning marriage in the policies and practices of our state,” Mr. Pence said. “As governor of all the people of Indiana I am confident that Hoosiers will continue to demonstrate the civility for which we are known and respect the beliefs of all people in our state.”
Opposing gay marriage used to be a political winner. In 2004, then-President George W. Bush was aided in his re-election bid by evangelical voters who turned out in droves to vote for state gay-marriage bans, and who also pulled the level for him. Candidate Barack Obama declined to support gay marriage when running for office in 2008.
But polls have been shifting over the last decade as Americans become more comfortable with same-sex unions, and the GOP has been wrestling with the issue internally. Some state Republican organizations have dropped their platform planks defending marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and some Republicans on Capitol Hill have announced their support for gay marriage, including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, whose son is gay and who is flirting with a presidential run.