WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision has reignited a debate inside the GOP that many Republican leaders hoped to avoid ahead of the 2016 presidential contest.
The court’s decision Monday to reject appeals from five states that sought to prohibit same-sex marriage pits the GOP’s pragmatic wing eager to move past the divisive social issue against religious conservatives – a vocal minority that vowed to redouble its efforts and punish those unwilling to join them.
Describing the decision as “judicial activism at its worst,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday renewed his pledge to introduce a constitutional amendment that would limit the court’s ability to strike down the remaining state laws blocking gays and lesbians from marrying. “We’re seeing right now an assault on traditional marriage,” he added.
Among the GOP’s crowded 2016 class, only a handful of potential contenders – Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, among them – aggressively criticized the court’s decision. Both will need support from religious conservatives to fuel a potential presidential bid.
“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.”
Article continues belowThe pair was in the minority among possible GOP presidential hopefuls. High-profile Republican governors from Wisconsin to Indiana suggested the debate was over – in their states, at least.
“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” said Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose state’s appeal was among those the court declined.
“To me, I’d rather be talking in the future now more about our jobs plan and our plan for the future of the state,” Walker continued. “I think that’s what matters to the kids. It’s not this issue.”
The court’s decision effectively raises the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal from 19 to 30, meaning as many as 60 percent of Americans now live in states where gay and lesbian people can marry.