John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Long Slog

Posted on March 26, 2013

Probably the best thing for Republicans would be for the Supreme Court to rule that gay marriage is legal and let us all move on, but I don’t think that is going to happen.

The media is completely focused on the goings on at the nation’s highest court, as if there is nothing else in the world that matters.

And that means I have to give my two cents worth.

It used to be that the prospect of gay marriage was a sure political winner for the GOP.   Karl Rove worked with different groups to get referendums on various state ballots to help drive the Christian right to the polls, the theory being that if Christians went to the polls, they would vote for George Bush.

And eight years ago, that worked pretty well for the GOP.

That seems to be changing, although the track record for proponents of gay marriage is not as overwhelming as they would have you believe.   Indeed, if California votes against you, and you are coming from liberal perspective, well, that only shows that you have some work to do.

Proponents seem hell bent on overturning both Proposition 8, the aforementioned California initiative, and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The guy who signed that into law has disowned it (Bill Clinton), as has the guy who shepherded it through the Congress (Newt Gingrich).   One fairly prominent Republican Senator, who voted for it, has now changed his mind and has come out for the whole idea of gay marriage (Rob Portman) and his change of mind has ushered in a whole onslaught of others, mostly Democrats, who don’t want to be caught up on the wrong side of history.

If Portman is for gay marriage, it makes any Democrat who is not on his side awfully vulnerable to a primary challenge.

Portman’s change of heart was particularly politically courageous, given that the Republican base has not changed its opinion on this issue, and probably will not change its opinion for a while.

That is why I think it would be best for Republicans to be saved by the Supreme Court on this.  Let the hard right fulminate at the Justices and not at their elected representatives.  That would be my preference.

But my guess is that the Supremes will not step in.

My guess is that they will not look at this as the great civil rights issue of its time the way the Supremes looked at inter-racial marriage in the 1960s.  Instead, they will look at this through the prism of Roe Vs. Wade, and decide that elected representatives should fight this fight out amongst themselves.

My guess is that they will not see this as a settled question, but as a question that needs to be settled by politicians in their respective legislative body.  And since usually when this is put the voters, the voters usually say no thanks to gay marriage, I doubt very seriously that John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy will impose their will over the will of the voters.

And that means that the next several elections will have gay marriage at the top of the ballot.  And there will be considerable pressure put on Republicans to overturn or modify the Defense of Marriage Act, and at the State level, more and more elections will be defined by where people stand on this one issue.

This will hurt Republicans in swing districts, but most likely help conservatives in more conservative districts.

At state level, you will see what you have seen.  A patchwork of different laws and different attitudes towards gay people.  And eventually, gay people will vote with their feet.  They will leave the States that remain hostile to gay marriage, and flock to the States that are more tolerant.   And because gay people tend to have bigger wallets than non-gay people, those States that remain hostile will fall further behind economically than the States that don’t.

These are just my theories. It could work out differently.  But my guess is that it will be a long slog.

I would prefer to focus on other issues, like tax reform and entitlement reform and education reform and immigration reform.  But gay marriage is not going away.  Not by a long shot.

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