Many 2016 candidates avoid comment on Alabama gay marriage case
In case you missed it, a federal judge and the US Supreme Court ruled on Monday that same-sex marriages must be allowed to commence in the state of Alabama. As a result, an Alabama Supreme Court judge, Justice Roy Moore, has issued an decree instructing state agencies to ignore the federal ruling since, in Moore’s opinion, the federal ruling violates the Alabama state Constitution which defines marriage as one man and one woman. Can you see the exciting legal circus we’re heading into here? Grab some popcorn.
Report from ABC News:
Same-sex couples married in some Alabama courthouses today, but many counties still refused to allow the unions to proceed despite rulings from a federal judge and the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed them to begin in the state Monday.
Where the potential 2016 presidential candidates stand on the issue is hard to know, because most of them are not weighing in.
ABC News reached out to the prospective candidates to ask whether judges in the state should be following or disobeying the federal ruling, and most declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., declined to comment on the specific case in Alabama, but noted that states will have to comply with what the Supreme Court decides on same-sex marriage this summer. [Emphasis added]
“I’ve just read the headlines about what’s happening in Alabama, so I’m not quite sure what the details are with regards to what the legal arguments the state is using as to why they don’t need to comply with it,” Rubio said.
“I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. I believe states – through their legal process, through their legislative process – have the right to define it any way they choose, although I would strongly advocate for what I believe should be traditional marriage.”
Dr. Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and conservative favorite, was by far the most specific of the possible candidates writing in a statement the issue should be left to the states saying, “The ruling by Alabama federal Judge Callie Granade to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional is an example of why such a matter should be left to state judges.” [Emphasis added]
“While these appointed federal officials certainly hold a great deal of knowledge and the ability to make important decisions, the issue of marriage — an institution that has been so clearly defined and guarded by this nation for centuries — should be decided upon by the state court as it pertains to that particular state’s residents,” Carson said. “Alabama’s elected Chief Justice Roy Moore understands the importance of preserving states’ rights in the modern post-Civil War world in which we live. This should be a state issue rather than a federal issue because judges at the state level must answer to the people in that state. When judges have no responsibility to the will of the people in the state, they do what they want without any consideration or obligation to the people. That is the reason why the United States Constitution assigns civil matters of this nature to the state.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, also said he believes it is a “state issue.” [Emphasis added]
“The Supreme Court will take it up in June,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said. “Until then, this is a matter between the State of Alabama and the courts.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he wants to see Congress pass an amendment to the Constitution if the Supreme Court overrules gay-marriage bans in the states. [Emphasis added]
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, a Republican, also kept it vague, saying in a statement “this is an important conversation that is going on in homes, churches, and communities across the country. I think that the worst thing the federal courts can do right now is shortcut this conversation.”
A representative for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., noted that the senator supported civil unions in Vermont, the first state to pass civil union legislation without being forced to act by a court order, and that when Sanders was a member of the House, he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. The senator has not weighed in on the chaos in Alabama.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, also did not directly comment, but his representative pointed to a tweet from the governor last month in which he argued “marriage equality is not a states’ rights issue,” but a “fundamental right that we should extend to every American.”
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has not directly commented on the status of same-sex marriages in Alabama, but on Tuesday, he reintroduced the “State Marriage Defense Act,” a piece of legislation which would require the federal government to defer to the states on whether same-sex couples should marry. [Emphasis added]
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, all Republicans, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., did not respond to requests for comment. [Emphasis added]
The list at the end of who declined a comment is most telling. Many of the names aren’t surprising but to see Huckabee and Santorum avoid the topic entirely speaks to how the perception has shifted of gay marriage in politics. However, this issue is red meat for many conservatives who see this as a social issue plus the topic of states’ rights, and religious liberty, all wrapped up in one. It can’t be avoided forever, especially as the campaign rolls on and candidates are asked time and time again to comment on the matter.