Those hoping to determine which long-term path the Republican party will take after today’s Supreme Court decision need to look no further than to the RNC itself. In a message released immediately after the ruling, Reince Priebus mildly criticized the ruling (correctly, in my view) while acknowledging its “finality;” struck a magnanimous note, confirming that the GOP “[respects] those on the winning side of the case” and remains “committed to finding common ground”; and identified the key priority going forward, which is to ensure the protection of conscience rights and the maintenance of religious liberty.
In a statement, Senator Rubio echoed this approach. Rubio reiterated his personal opposition and noted that he thought the decision was incorrect. But he also wrote that Americans “live in a republic and must abide by the law.” As for future action, Rubio suggested that his position would be to “nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood,” and to ensure that “no one is compelled by law to violate their conscience.” Each side, he said, must be “respect the dignity of the other.” Lindsay Graham agreed, adding that the sort of constitutional amendment that has been proposed by Governor Walker and Senator Cruz is simply not going to happen:
I am a proud defender of traditional marriage and believe the people of each state should have the right to determine their marriage laws. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, and I will respect the Court’s decision. Furthermore, given the quickly changing tide of public opinion on this issue, I do not believe that an attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution could possibly gain the support of three-fourths of the states or a supermajority in the U.S. Congress. Rather than pursuing a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail, I am committing myself to ensuring the protection of religious liberties of all Americans.
Governor Christie agreed with Rubio and Graham.
In the coming weeks we will almost certainly see a fight over how the Republican party should react. This may — indeed, probably will — bleed into the primary. But it will not last too long. A decade hence, the Priebus, Rubio, and Graham model will be regnant, and it should be. This is not to endorse the decision, which, in my view, was a legal abomination. But it is to point out that that decision is now the law and that it is not going to change. Conservatives should decide sooner rather than later how long they want to keep fighting this battle, and whether they are prepared to let it distract them from other crucial questions — questions which now include, “what is to become of the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment?”