With President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, Republican opponents need to choose their battles wisely, no matter how much it pains them.
Some culturally divisive issues are viewed by Republicans as so potentially dangerous to the moral fabric of our society that they demand an emergency response (see: Texas’s new ultrasound law). The volatile issue of same-sex marriage has been at the forefront for years, as evidenced by countless ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments at both the state and federal levels. But following last week’s historic endorsement of same-sex marriage by President Obama, the majority of Republicans seemed willing to leave same-sex marriage alone, choosing instead to bite their tongues in the hopes of winning those coveted swing voters.
According to a new Gallup poll, which was conducted prior to Obama’s endorsement, the country is split on same-sex marriage with 50 percent of Americans supporting it and 48 percent against it. Of that number, a significant 57 percent of registered independents support it.
In an attempt to assure voters that this election is solely about the economy, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn told CNN that the president was trying to “raise divisive issues up to solidify his base and to divide this country,” adding that we should be focusing on jobs, not social issues. Yes, in times like these Americans need to put their partisan differences aside for the good of the country. Just like Cornyn did in 2004, when he helped introduce a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, declaring that it amounted to an economic emergency:
We know from some of the social experimentation that’s occurred in Scandinavia and elsewhere that when same-sex couples can legally marry, that essentially what happens is people quit getting married across the board, and more people raise children outside of marriage at higher risk for a whole host of social ills, placing additional burdens on the government and the taxpayers that support that government.
Clearly the senator no longer cares about the taxpayers.
Although Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2005, a Texas Tribune poll conducted last year found that those views were, much like the president’s, evolving. Currently 61 percent of Texans support legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships with 30 percent supporting same-sex marriage and 31 percent supporting civil unions.
Most Texas Republicans have remained relatively quiet concerning this latest development. Earlier this year Congressman Louie Gohmert slammed the reversal of California’s Proposition 8, explaining that marriage should be about the sacred relationship between a loving egg and a willing sperm. “Nature seemed to like the idea of an egg and a sperm coming together because of pro-creation,” Gohmert said. “Apparently [the appeals court] thought the sperm had far better use some other way biologically, combining it with something else.” (The “something else” remains undefined.) Yet despite his impassioned plea for the woefully underrepresented egg and sperm, Gohmert now says that same-sex marriage is “not something we’re focused on right now.” Congressman Ted Poe, a two-time co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act, even attended a Log Cabin Republican meeting in Houston this year. Congressman Kevin Brady, however, did respond to Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage on Facebook, the poor man’s version of a press conference: “I suspect the President’s flip-flop on gay marriage is driven by his election fears rather than his principles…In my view, marriage is a sacrament from our Creator, not merely a law created by man.”
Looks like someone didn’t get the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Same-Sex Marriage memo. And he wasn’t the only one. Gov. Rick Perry’s spokesperson referred to Obama’s endorsement as “election-year politics” and reiterated that Perry is committed to the “sanctity of marriage, defined as a union between one man and one woman.” Not that the governor has ever been shy about his disdain for gay rights. In his controversial campaign ad released last December, Perry said, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” And that’s just the military. Imagine what same-sex marriage could do to Christmas.
Whether the issue of gay marriage will have an impact on this election remains to be seen. But the fairly muted response by Republicans, especially in Texas, hints that this is an issue they don’t want to touch. For now, anyway.