OK, so we know what Democrats who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) back in 1996 think about its repudiation by the Supreme Court: Characters such as Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, and Bob Menendez think it's just fabulous that the courts struck down a law they all supported up the ying-yang (where legal). They are so happy to extend equality to gays and lesbians that they have plumb forgotten their role in passing DOMA in the first place.
And we know what Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who won the presidential straw poll at this year's CPAC and is the leading libertarian Republican in the country, thinks about it.
So what about the other leading GOP contenders for the White House circa 2016? Here's a rundown:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): Rubio released a long statement on the issue in which he beat around the bush like he was auditioning for The Vagina Monologues. It consists mostly of reiterating two points. First, the Supreme Court shouldn't have overruled the majority of people, as expressed in 1996. Second, don't call those of us who think that gays and lesbians should not have equal rights as "bigots." Sample language:
"I recognize that the definition of marriage and the legal status of same-sex relationships is a deeply personal and emotional issue for Americans of a variety of viewpoints. These types of disagreements should be settled through the democratic process, as the Founders intended, not through litigation and court pronouncements."
Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.): As governor, Christie has pushed to put the question to a vote among New Jersey voters because shouldn't all basic rights be subjected to a majority vote? Here's part of his reaction to the rulings:
"I've made it very clear since 2009 that I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I've said that, I ran on that, I've said it consistently. That doesn't mean, in any way shape or form, that I have anything against folks who are homosexual."
Sure. Except for the part about not wanting to let them get married to each other.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.): I couldn't find a direct reaction to the rulings but there's this from June 14:
My own personal views are I believe in traditional marriage, but I would emphasize in the public square, the need to restore our country's greatness through prosperity and through reform and through a recognition of the strength of family, in general, and the more we get into the fights that divide us, the less likely it is that we will be governing again.
In the same discussion the Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody, Bush stressed that economic growth is somehow linked to two-parent, male-female households. Why? Because alternative folks just don't have enough love.
"…the non-traditional family that I was speaking of is the struggle in the great majority part of our society where families are really struggling to be able to do what's right. And they don't have the infrastructure of love around them that makes it harder to be successful….traditional families are what are going to end up leading our renewal, that moms and dads or husbands and wives that love their children with all their heart and soul is going to be the path to restoration for our country."
Infrastructure of Love sounds like a Todd Rundgren prog-rock album. As a campaign slogan, it's not so good.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas): Cruz hit the note of Supreme Court overreach, stressing that even "blue-state" California had voted in favor of banning same-sex marriages and that the majority should rule, shouldn't it? Remember that the next time Cruz or any conservative talks about how the genius of the Founders was precisely that they protected minorities from the tyranny of the majority and all that. Because the minute that majorities in a majority of states vote in favor of gay marriage, expect the same people to start talking about natural, god-given rights that can't be subjected to a vote.
The family is the fundamental building block of society, and I strongly support traditional marriage between one man and one woman. The voters of California made that same choice, until the courts improperly substituted their preferences for those of the people.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.): Mitt Romney's running mate said that the issue will now be decided at the state level, where it should be. His official site doesn't mention the rulings, but curiously he drew conservative wrath a few months back when he said he could live with gay adoption. From USA Today:
In 1999, the congressman voted in favor of banning same-sex couples in the District of Columbia from adopting.
"I do believe that if there are children who are orphans who do not have a loving person or couple … I think if a person wants to love and raise a child, they ought to be able to do that. Period. I would vote that way," Ryan says…
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.): Quoted in the Times-Picayune thus:
"I believe every child deserves a mom and a dad. This opinion leaves the matter of marriage to the states where people can decide. In Louisiana, we will opt for traditional marriage.
"How about we let the people decide for themselves, via their representatives and via referendum?"
So the math here is: Mom + Mom or Dad + Dad is less than just Mom or just Dad. Good luck selling that.
If you've seen other memorable or different quotes or—heaven forbid—a quote by a leading Republican that actually celebrates marriage equality, please add it to the comments below and I'll kick it up here.
Most polls show a slight majority of Americans are now in favor of marriage equality—of treating gay and lesbian couples the same as heterosexual ones, with the same tax breaks, legal status, you name it. All polls show the same direction toward more acceptance over time and all show that the younger you are, the more likely you are to see gay marriage as no big deal.
Here's a representative chart from the Pew folks:
Let me suggest two points in the wake of the Supreme Court rulings related to gay marriage.
The first is that there's no clear reason why Republicans should be so univocal on opposing gay marriage. From a political point of view, it's not logically clear how a supposed dedication to limited government should indicate any one position on gay marriage, or even marriage at all. Many, perhaps most religions, are opposed to homosexuality and many Republicans are religious. But the whole notion of limited government came out of separating religion and the state.
It's totally possible to be opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds without calling for the exclusion of gays from secular rules governing marriage. I assume that most Catholics think most Jews or Muslims or Anglicans are making a mistake by not practicing Catholicism. They might even fight with their friends or neighbors over religion and try to convert them (as a kid in Catholic schools, I was told it was a sin not to try to convert the heathen). But no Catholic thinks the government should treat adherents to other faiths differently when it comes to the secular world. It's not a good sign that no leading Republican—certainly not one likely to be in the hunt for the presidential nomination in 2016—is known to be in favor of equal treatment of gays and lesbians under the law.
The second is this: If the Republican Party cannot come to terms with gay marriage, it will be left behind by American voters, who are moving toward greater acceptance of all sorts of alternative lifestyles. The Democrats are no prize-winners when it comes to inclusion or tolerance, for sure (indeed, DOMA needs to be understood as a Democratically supported piece of legislation, as was Don't Ask Don't Tell). But just as a positive defense of racial segregation faded (took too long, way too long) and just as vile sentiments against Jews, southern Europeans, and other "lesser" peoples faded not just from polite society but all society, so too is centuries-old homophobia passing into history. Mr. Roper, RIP.
I appreciate that for people who take the Bible—or the Koran—seriously, homosexuality presents a scriptural, theological, and cultural challenge. But the fact of the matter is that it's over for treating gays and lesbians as deviants, perverts, or worse in the public sphere. The sooner you can process that and make peace with it, the sooner you can turn your attention to activities that are the proper purview of government and public policy. Lord knows there's plenty of work to be done when it comes to righting the size, scope, and spending of government, which is what Republicans and conservatives always say they care about.