DOMA Repeal: The Real GOP Argument on Same Sex Marriage


Wednesday morning, Salon reported on the noticeable “radio silence” from the GOP on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case that challenges the Defense of Marriage Act.

“It’s clear GOP elites don’t want to talk about it and want to keep it as quiet as possible,” said Maggie Gallagher, a founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

In an interview with Politico, Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council was “disappointed” with the “radio silence” from the Hill.

At an Americans for Tax Reform meeting Wednesday morning, Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network, presented analysis on the DOMA challenge in the courts. “For better or for worse, the courts have become the final arbiter of the most vital cultural questions our country faces today,” reads a memo handed out to members at the ATR meeting.

“Regardless of whether or not you are encouraged by recent electoral victories for same-sex marriage,” Severino wrote, “you should be worried about the prospect of the Supreme Court using this term's cases to force same-sex marriage on the country either by overfunding DOMA or by declaring state laws adopting a traditional definition offering as unconstitutional.”

“A decision by the Supreme Court to trump the will of the people has the potential to polarize our society in ways we haven't seen since Roe v. Wade,” Severino explained in an interview.

“By leapfrogging the political process to create a new constitutional right, that case created a rift in American society that distorts our political process, our party system, and the legitimacy of the courts to this day. The same effects would follow if the Court overturns DOMA or California's constitutional amendment,” Severino further explained.

What’s the deal with the GOP? Perhaps we should look back and recall the words of Paul Ryan from this year’s election season.

In the Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” section, a clip from Ryan’s speech from last September was posted with the headline:“Paul Ryan Says Gay Marriage Is Not An 'American' Or 'Universal Human Value.'

The headline is inaccurate. What Paul Ryan said was this,“The things you talk about like traditional marriage, family, and entrepreneurship, these aren’t values that are indicative to any one person or race or creed or color, these are American values these are universal human values.”

As the second most prominent voice of the GOP this past election season, Ryan attempted to articulate what most conservative Christian GOP members represent. He was not espousing anti-gay rhetoric; he was not specifically condemning gay marriage or gay lifestyle choices.

He was merely restating a fundamental moral value that he holds as a Catholic American and that he believes the founding fathers held when creating America. Granted that, not all GOP members would broadcast marriage of any sort as an essentially “American value,” but Ryan certainly did not intend to question the “American-ness” of the gay population.

Most of the prominent GOP voices — when heard correctly — do not advocate anti-gay, discriminatory rhetoric in the public square. They merely stand for what they understand as tradition. To take a stance on issues that are derived from an absolute value system is a bold move for a politician, especially in the current political climate in America.

As long as members of the GOP continue to represent a majority of Christian Conservative voters, it is doubtful that the party will take a political stance on gay marriage that differs from its current one.

However, it is surprising that there appears to be consensus among most GOP members on the gay marriage issue, considering that most Christian churches and communities remain dividedas to whether it is biblical to legitimize same-sex marriage.

The history of the GOP illustrates a spectrum of social issue stances. As John B. Londregan’s November Public Discourse article points out,

“Before Ronald Reagan, the parties differed from each other on economic policy preferences, but were internally divided on social issues. Edward Kennedy and Jesse Jackson were once pro-life, while there were Rockefeller Republicans who favored abortion. Reagan changed this, moving the Republican Party to a pro-life position on abortion and to the right on other social issues as well.”

Many left-leaning readers may find this difficult to conceptualize, but the goal of the GOP is not to marginalize other Americans who are different than them. The goal of the GOP is not to stifle the voices of the minority through legislation, to disenfranchise others through advocating socially conservative policy stances, or to squelch American civil rights in their support of traditional marriage.

For most GOP members who are Christian, marriage is a sacred union that should — first and foremost — be dealt with in a citizen’s church and local community. Those who lean far-right in the GOP most likely won’t budge, butnot because they hate gays, are afraid of progress, or desire some form of power or prestige.

Like Paul Ryan, many GOP members’ alignment with traditional marriage values flows from their adherence to moral absolutism. They believe that there is a law that exists outside of our modern interpretation of reality, or society’s structure of law, and that law tells us that marriage is a good. It tells us that it is reserved for a man and a woman for the purpose of committed love that begets children. And that’s nonnegotiable.

From a legal standpoint, the challenge to DOMA goes beyond the moral objection that is relayed by outspoken members of the GOP.

Because the issue of gay marriage has been brought to the fore of public political debate, members of the GOP have been forced to speak of their personal moral convictions in the public arena.

The private lives of politicians have been under nearly unprecedented scrutiny in the last fifty years of American elections, and even more so in 2012. Some Americans were more concerned with how Mitt Romney spends his personal money than how President Obama spends theirs.

The relative silence on the recent DOMA developments may be indicative of the increasingly progressive cultural climate in America. Many Americans continue to speak out in favor of marriage equality. Regardless of the GOP’s espousal of traditional moral values, “advocates of same-sex marriage have been gaining traction,” Severino wrote. “A court usurpation of this process would only breed resentment and further polarization in American politics.”

The GOP is still recovering from November 6, when the traditional marriage rhetoric pushed so fervently by Romney and Ryan proved to be not enough to influence the vote. If they aren’t rethinking their strategy, their relationship with marriage in the public debate, then perhaps they should be.

Maybe this controversial issue will force us to reflect on our personal philosophy. To what degree does our private self differ from our public self? Should we take a political stance that does not align with our personal moral convictions? If our public self and private self is divided on these important moral issues, should we continue to remain of two minds?