Have we reached a “point of no return” in the battle over same-sex marriage? And, if so, what does it say about those who still fight desperately to block such intimacy from becoming the law of the land?
In early October, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in such hard-core, “red” states as Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Three other states that are part of the circuit appeals-court jurisdiction — Colorado, Kansas and North Carolina — may soon succumb to the ruling. No state has declared it plans to secede over the legalization of gay marriage.
Sometimes court decisions lead popular opinion, like the ’56 Brown decision desegregating U.S. schools. On the issue of same-sex marriage, U.S. courts are following, officially blessing public sentiment; most important, they are not seeking to block the inevitable.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 49 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage, while 41 percent oppose it; a decade ago, in 2004, it found that 60 percent of Americans opposed gay marriage, while 31 percent supported it. Perhaps most revealing, The Washington Post reported in 2013 that 81 percent of people under 30-years support same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is no longer a “hot button” culture-wars issue. A decade ago, it divided the nation, almost as bitterly as abortion and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the war against a woman’s right to choose and the permanent war complex grind on, homosexuality is no longer a sin, a psychopathology, a criminal offense. Gay marriage is legal in 32 states; homosexuality is formally accepted in the U.S. military; celebrities, athletes, CEOs and politicians are “out”; and every family has a relative, friend or neighbor who is gay.
The Republican establishment has been noticeably mum on the Court’s recent ruling, let alone the issue of same-sex marriage. Homosexuality has long been a decisive issue within the white, conservative, Christian, Republican community. But no longer?
Governor Scott Walker swallowed hard, “For us, it’s over in Wisconsin.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said nothing publically about the Court decision. However, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is one of the few Republicans whose come out publicly in support of same-sex marriage. Last year, he announced that his son was gay and then reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage. Not all Republican stalwarts are so humane.
Pew’s survey revealed that Republicans who back same-sex marriage are a minority, only one-third (34%). More revealing, three-fourths (75%) of Republicans are white evangelicals and they oppose gay marriage. They play an influential role in the early Republican presidential contests, especially Iowa and South Carolina.
Giving voice to this sentiment, Maggie Gallagher, a senior fellow at the American Principals Project and a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, opined, “This is the new norm in the Republican Party, playing down social issues.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) assailed the Court’s decisions as “both tragic and indefensible.” He vowed to introduce a constitutional amendment “to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.”
The issue of same-sex marriage is playing a critical role in four pivotal state elections — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina and Virginia. Summaries follow:
* Colorado – an April Quinnipiac University survey found that three out of five (61%) Coloradoans supported gay marriage, compared to one third (33%) who oppose it. Sen. Mark Udall (D) supports gay marriage; his opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner (R), played down the issue saying, “we must honor their legal decisions.”
* Kansas – the state is in play with two long-term Republican stalwarts, Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback, discredited and facing serious challenges. Roberts supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and recently sent a mailing last week to 300,000 voters criticizing independent candidate Greg Orman, endorsed by Equality Kansas, an LGBT group. Brownback recently spoke out against same-sex marriage at a rally.
* North Carolina – the Court overturned a state approved ban on same-sex marriage, but the fight by local Republican office holders continues. Senate candidate, Rep. Thom Tillis (R), who’s running against Sen. Kay Hagen (D), opposes same-sex marriage; Hagan did not issue a statement regarding the Court decision.
* Virginia – the Court’s decision struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and Sen. Mark Warner (D) supported the decision. His opponent, Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee, previously supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; he recently took the highroad and accepted the Court’s decision, but says he continues to oppose gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage was once – and not so long ago – considered an impossible legal hurdle. Now, 32 states permit such marriages and — in all likelihood — the final 18 states will at some time soon be forced to accept this new historical reality. Same-sex marriage still matters in a handful of key state elections, but will it matter in 2016 presidential run? Stay tuned.