GOP candidates' same-sex marriage test: Who's willing to be honest about what just happened?

A candidate pledging to push a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is not a serious candidate

Published June 29, 2015 4:25PM (EDT)

  (AP/Susan Walsh)
(AP/Susan Walsh)

The big political question coming out of last week's historic ruling recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is: How will the Republican presidential candidates react? Kidding, kidding. I'm kidding! The big question is really: who cares how they'll react? They can run around saying whatever. They lost the central fight and now will exert most of their energy protecting those local government clerks whose religion prevents them from issuing marriage certificates. Go nuts.

But hey, just for fun. Which candidates will at least be honest with socially conservative voters about what's just transpired? About the losing part?

Here is an honest thing that these candidates will say, or at least imply: that there will be no amendment to the Constitution rolling back the right to same-sex marriage. This couldn't go anywhere a dozen years ago, when the Supreme Court first recognized gay peoples' right to have sex, and it won't go anywhere now, when strong majorities of the country support the right to same-sex marriage. It is hard to pass any constitutional amendment that rolls back an extension of freedoms. That's sort of the point.

This is a simple test of integrity in the solicitation of votes. If the candidate promises to pursue a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage: Fraud! If the candidate rejects or even just sidesteps that question: Not fraud! (At least on that issue.)

Mike Huckabee, for example, would be a "fraud" here. His campaign sent out an ACTION ALERT that, like most ACTION ALERT emails, is a means of collecting email addresses for his database. His six-point plan to fight an Out-of-Control Supreme Court (emphases his) includes such specific policy measures as "End Judicial Tyranny & Restore the Balance of Power Between the 3 Branches of Government," "Nominate Commonsense Constitutional Judges and Justices," and, of course, "Pass a Constitutional Amendment Defining Marriage As Between One Man & One Woman." I don't know what those First Two Things mean, but I do know what the Last One means and I know that It will never happen, and that Mike Huckabee is bullshitting.

Then there is Scott Walker, who is leading comfortably in Iowa and intends to keep it that way. Scott Walker's gonna get this amendment through, allegedly with the support of the American people:

The ruling was “a grave mistake,” the Republican governor said, touting his support for amending his state’s constitution “to protect the institution of marriage from exactly this type of judicial activism.”

“As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage,” Walker said in the statement.

Not gonna happen, pandering, liar.

What's an honest response? Lindsey Graham's is respectable. There are all sorts of problems with Lindsey Graham, but he doesn't have any trouble telling the base that the numbers aren't there to support what they want to do. And here he notes that -- gasp -- getting the amount of support needed to amend the Constitution on this is probably not within reach.

"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 Congress," he said.

He called that kind of approach "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail" and said he would instead be on watch for the religious rights of Americans in the aftermath of the ruling, both as a senator and if he were to become President.

"While we all have differences, it is time for us to move forward together respectfully and as one people," he concluded.

Lindsey Graham would be great if he wasn't so insane about war and all the other things.

The Republican platform, and the platform of the party's eventual presidential nominee, will probably include some clause stating a belief that marriage is between a man or a woman. The likely nominee, too, will state that (s)he believes marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman. But the likely nominee, in terms of practical effects, will focus on protecting religious liberties and whatever that implies. Oh God, no, we're not saying that Lindsey Graham is going to be the nominee. But Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, for example, clearly have their eyes looking further down the road than Scott Walker does right now.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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