The Supreme Court has ruled 5–4 that the Constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage. Will this decision be the Brown v. Board of Education of our times or this generation’s Roe v. Wade? The difference, of course, is that Brown v. Board definitively established a magnificent new public morality that racism is wrong. The Supreme Court’s decision to strip human life in the womb of all legal protections, by contrast, set in motion a 50-year struggle that has yet to end.
Which will it be? A great deal depends on how the men and women who want to be the GOP nominee for president respond in the next week.
Most recently, they have succeeded, for example, in getting Governor Rick Perry to shut up. At the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, Perry “said nothing in his own speech about the upcoming landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, and instead focused primarily on matters unrelated to religion,” according to Rebecca Berg in RealClearPolitics. Perry downplayed the idea of calling for overturning the Court decision, reasoning: “My record on traditional marriage is very clear. . . . I think a more appropriate focus for those of us that are running for the presidency of the United States is to remind people that the next president of the United States could appoint up to three people on the Supreme Court.”
Jennifer Rubin, whose political instincts are almost always wrong, chimed in her two cents’ worth of praise, urging Scott Walker to emulate Perry, not Huckabee, in just walking on the quiet side: “Walker would be wise to follow Perry’s approach: Don’t drop his views, but do avoid outlandish and off-putting rhetoric; emphasize what his focus will be, not what a fringe of the party wants to fixate on; embrace globalism and smart economic policy; and be respectful of the courts and of fellow Americans.”
This is the conventional wisdom, a conventional wisdom that the latest WSJ/NBC poll calls into deep question. The key question in this poll is not who is on top — the field is splintered, there is no frontrunner, and too many candidates are within the margin of error of each other to make meaningful predictions. But the poll asked a key question: Could you imagine voting for this candidate? That question, as consultant and American Principles Project president Frank Cannon pointed out to me, gives you a sense of which candidates are building a potential upside, who have the most potential voters to appeal to.
And the latest poll showed two remarkable things: a strong upsurge from Huckabee in the last few months, from 52 percent saying they would possibly vote for him to 65 percent. (Scott Walker, by contrast, barely inched up from 53 percent to 57 percent of voters).
Perry, I think, has made a big mistake: He has revealed himself to be a creature of the corporate and donor class, muting his defense of what many Americans see as the premier issue of our times.
Even more remarkably, Jeb Bush transformed himself from the candidate Republicans like to hate back into major contender, surging from 49 percent of the electorate saying they could see themselves voting for Jeb up to 75 percent (tying Rubio, who is at 74 percent). He did this even while holding steady in favor of immigration reform and Common Core, in part by steadily and sturdily and, yes, reasonably explaining his commitments to life and religious liberty, without backing down from marriage.
Perry, I think, has made a big mistake: He has revealed himself to be a creature of the corporate and donor class, muting his defense of what many Americans see as the premier issue of our times, along with the stagnant economy and the threats from terrorism: the ongoing redefinition of classic Christianity as the moral, legal, and cultural equivalent of racism in the public square.
Last week, ThePulse2016.com (which I help edit) asked 29 prominent social-conservative leaders a key question: Assuming the Supreme Court imposes gay marriage on all 50 states, how do you want GOP presidential candidates to respond? (The Social Conservative Insider Poll consists of Gary Bauer, Kim Bengard, Frank Cannon, Clint Cline, Steve Deace, Chuck Donovan, Erick Erickson, Michael Farris, Maggie Gallagher, Kathryn Lopez, Shannon McGinley, Eric Metaxas, Gaston Mooney, Frank Schubert, Alan Sears, Todd Starnes, Bob Vanderplaats, Bill Witchterman, Becky Norton-Dunlop, Penny Nance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Tony Perkins, Ellen Barrosse, James Robison, Father Frank Pavone, James Dobson, David Barton, Marvin Olasky, and Charmaine Yoest.)
EDITORIAL: To Preserve Marriage and Democracy
Many said they want a champion who will do everything, along the lines of the pledge drafted by the National Organization for Marriage. But when asked to choose between a constitutional amendment (which likely will not pass) or protective legislation like the First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect the c3 status of Christian schools and nonprofits, these leaders said, by a 3–1 margin, that we need practical protection and we need it now.
Several mentioned the possibility, during the next president’s first few days in office, of an executive order preventing government discrimination against traditional believers, a measure that would apply to contracts, employment, and the disbursal of government benefits.
In a way, this is an opportunity for Perry and Walker if they want to reverse the growing impression among conservatives that when the heat is on they will stand down, back off, and submit.
Here is what I think the man or woman who wants to be president cannot say: any version of “the Court has ruled, it’s time to move on.”
Here is what I want to hear:
“Today the Supreme Court ruled against our history and traditions that marriage must change its timeless and time-honored meaning in response to the latest liberal pressures. The Supreme Court is not God, and it is not the final word in our American Constitutional system: The Court, like all human things, sometimes get things wrong. It was wrong about slavery with Dred Scott. It was wrong about racism and segregation with Plessy v. Ferguson. It was wrong about the value of every human life with Roe v. Wade. And today it has gotten marriage wrong.
“For a reason, marriage across time and history has been the union of husband and wife: These are the unions we all depend on to make new life, and to connect our babies with the love of their mom and dad. You can rewrite the law, but you cannot rewrite human nature, or the laws of nature and of nature’s God.
“This Court’s decision does not end the discussion of the dangers of radical judicial power.“Today, I pledge that, if I am elected president, the move to redefine as discrimination Christianity and traditional beliefs on marriage — to redefine them as the equivalent of racism — ends. Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, but this same tolerance and respect must be extended to those who disagree with gay marriage. My first day in office I will issue an executive order preventing government from discriminating on the basis of a person’s commitment to the classic understanding of marriage. And within the first 100 days, we will pass legislation codifying that commitment to prevent government power from being used to silence the debate. The First Amendment Defense Act is a commonsense codification of basic decency and mutual respect. I call on not only the Republicans but Hillary Clinton and every other Democrat to pledge to support this law.
“And if they refuse, you will understand how radical a power grab the Democrats imagine: the power to punish classic, mainstream religious belief and push it out of the public square. The American people believe in mutual respect, in live and let live. I have faith that our cause, so named, will not only survive. It will prevail.
“To this great cause I pledge my word. I will not fail you, friends.”
Let us watch, and wait, and see who speaks with courage and who runs for cover.
— Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. She blogs at MaggieGallagher.com.