The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act will impact gay and lesbian couples and families in ways applicable to everyday life. In political ways, however, it’s the Republican Party that stands to gain if the matter of marriage equality is settled by the High Court.
It’s been more than a decade since the idea of legally wed same-sex couples doggedly divided democrats. Now it’s mostly Republican candidates who must run with splinters in their districts, desperately tugging at the thorn of anti-gay social conservatives who’ve camped stubbornly in the far side their party.
Moderate-conservatives, and even conservative-conservatives, need this issue to go away fast. A High Court opinion favoring same-sex couples would be gift for Republicans. Republican strategists know it and they aren’t excited about the possibility of more primary contests making marriage equality an issue – pushing the party to play on a court least likely to favor their candidates.
When it comes to same-sex marriage, the most intransigent opposition to marriage equality has been pushed to the sidelines. And anti-gay activists aren’t exactly the team players Republicans need them to be to change the image of the party.
In a letter released last week, 200 conservative activists, who’ve historically aligned with Republicans, pledged to ignore any Supreme Court decision which favored same-sex couples. No one really knows what that means, but signing under a new moniker – the Freedom Federation – the group claims, “the Supreme Court has no authority to redefine marriage.”
The statement comes from the very cadre of individuals who’ve spent half their lives, and millions of dollars, to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, imbedding the language in more than 30 state constitutions.
We know public opinion on gay marriage has turned yesteryear’s political slam-dunk into today’s half-court attempt. Some other hot button social issues still have sting and are divisive enough to last a few more election cycles, presumably to benefit individuals who represent overly conservative districts.
This week’s “Senate Surge” on the immigration reform bill promises a boundary between the United States and Mexico ideologically as antiquated as the Berlin Wall. It appears no number of children or adults can be killed in gun-related circumstances to necessitate better background checks for gun ownership. And and as far as abortion, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-TX, proved last week that you just can’t say anything lewd or lascivious enough to stop the momentum against women’s reproductive rights.
The anti-gay political strategy had an admirable run. The socially conservative strategy dominated political contests for the better part of the 90’s. Between 1993’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and 1996’s Defense of Marriage Act, political hacks have been scaring homophobic hicks into voting booths across the country. They’ve cited voodoo science and tales of doom and gloom should gays be permitted to enter the institution of marriage, for political gain.
As fashion forward as that strategy was, it’s a safe bet those bell-bottoms won’t be in style next fall when voters go to the polls. One only need to look at last year’s Republican autopsy, and American’s evolving notions, to corroborate the party is losing ground.
Republicans are in dire need of a Supreme Court bailout on marriage. They need the Court to resolve this conflict for them, because doing it any other way will be the harder road to travel. After years of relying on marriage as a hot-button issue to drive voters to the polls, Republicans are now either running from the issue altogether, or coming out in support of same-sex marriage.
As I’ve said before, “When your horse is dead, dismount. And never let anyone see you check for a heartbeat.”
This issue is on its deathbed. The best most Republicans can hope for is for the conflict to die in a courtroom just the way the conflict over interracial marriage did in 1967.
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