After the Supreme Court passively legalized same-sex marriage in several GOP-controlled states on Monday, Wisconsin's Scott Walker was one of the first governors to weigh in.
“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” said Walker, whose administration had fought to uphold the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "The federal courts have ruled that this decision by this court of appeals decision is the law of the land and we will be upholding it."
The note of defeat in his statement caught the attention of political reporters and 2016 watchers. And it’s true that Walker could have reacted to the news with anguished rhetoric, or, like Senator Ted Cruz, with a call to amend the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee to exempt state-based same-sex marriage bans.
But in a practical sense, Walker was right. As much as the notion of two men or two women marrying each other might appall him, he’s genuinely out of moves. Federal courts with jurisdiction in different parts of the country might one day uphold other states' same-sex marriage bans, prompting the Supreme Court to revisit the issue. But between now and then the only way for Walker to stop same-sex couples from marrying in Wisconsin short of violating the Constitution, would be to attend every gay wedding in the state and refuse to forever hold his peace. Others on the right don’t see it that way, though. And that means we could be in for a very lively debate over the fabric of the American union when the GOP presidential primary takes shape.
Unlike in Wisconsin, same-sex marriage prohibitions in South Carolina and Wyoming weren’t stricken directly, but rather as a consequence of circuit court rulings against bans in nearby states. And Republicans there are intent on dragging their heels. Rather than accepting defeat, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead both plan to enforce their state SSM bans to the bitter end. But whereas these governors are probably just playing footsie with nullification, and ultimately plan to issue same-sex marriage licenses when federal judges order them to, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is all in on the idea that Republican governors can continue to stand athwart same-sex marriage until gay people pry the veto pens from their cold dead hands.
“It is shocking that many elected officials, attorneys and judges think that a court ruling is the 'final word,'" Huckabee said. “It most certainly is not. The courts are one branch of government, and equal to the other two, but not superior to either and certainly not to both. Even if the other two branches agree with the ruling, the people's representatives have to pass enabling legislation to authorize same sex marriage, and the President (or Governor in the case of the state) has to sign it. Otherwise, it remains the court's opinion. It is NOT the 'law of the land' as is often heralded.”
Huckabee should've listened more closely to noted RINO Cruz, who merely bemoaned that “11 States [including South Carolina and Wyoming] will likely now be forced to legalize same-sex marriage,” while declining to endorse the view that appellate and Supreme Court decisions are merely opinions, with no force of law, and which states can happily ignore.
When Cruz’s statement landed on Monday, I assumed it would constitute the right-most bound of the GOP presidential primary debate over same-sex marriage, with Walker’s fifth-stage of grief constituting the left bound. But thanks to Huckabee et al, we’re left with the real possibility that Republican presidential hopefuls will end up debating the merits of ignoring the Supreme Court and enforcing same-sex marriage bans until the National Guard rolls into town and forces clerks to start printing up licenses.