Battleground DOMA: What next for opponents of gay marriage?
After twin losses at the Supreme Court, the battleground shifts to the states, where social conservative leaders aim to 'fight like crazy,' with little help from the national GOP establishment.
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But especially alarming to some Christian conservative leaders is the culture war within the GOP that makes them feel that party leaders – both in Congress and at the Republican National Committee (RNC) – are abandoning them.Skip to next paragraph
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“I would say to Speaker Boehner and [Senate Republican leader] Mitch McConnell and the folks at the RNC, you better wake up soon, because if values voters decide that their investment in the GOP resulted in less than a zero return, the party will find itself without the only group that is saving it from political oblivion,” says Mr. Bauer.
Republican leaders need to spend as much time defending traditional marriage and other conservative values as much as they make the case for not raising taxes on billionaires and calling on Democrats to cut Social Security, Bauer continues, the anger rising in his voice.
“The idea that the Republican economic agenda is popular and is held back by the Republican social agenda is, like everything else in Washington, D.C., exactly upside down,” he says.
But judging by GOP leaders’ responses – or lack thereof -- to the Supreme Court’s gay marriage rulings, the schism between social and economic conservatives doesn’t look set to ease anytime soon. The Republican National Committee and its chairman, Reince Priebus, were silent on the decisions. Speaker Boehner said he was “disappointed” in the rulings, and hoped states would define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Senator McConnell issued no comment.
They seemed to be following the playbook outlined in a recent report by an RNC task force that suggested opposition to gay marriage could harm a party trying to grow its appeal among demographic groups that went heavily Democratic last November.
“On messaging, we must change our tone – especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters,” the report read. “In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.”
Indeed, given the political standoff in Congress, any Republican efforts to strengthen DOMA are already dead on arrival (and ditto efforts by Democrats to eliminate DOMA altogether). So, by definition, the effort to defend traditional marriage goes to the states.
And in the wake of Wednesday’s rulings, the challenge is likely to get even more difficult in the court of public opinion.
Brian Powell, a sociology professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, cites his research, which shows that when a childless gay couple legally marries, the public is must more likely to view them as a family, compared with a childless gay couple that is only living together.
“What that means,” Mr. Powell says, “is the validation by the Supreme Court that enables more people to be legally married should result in greater acceptance of gay marriage.”
Now that gay couples in California will soon be allowed to marry again, per the instruction of Gov. Jerry Brown (D), following the Prop 8 ruling, more than one-third of Americans will live in jurisdictions with legal gay marriage.