The Supreme Court’s decision to allow rulings that recognize the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry in five states was a massive step forward in the drive for marriage equality. But it could also scramble the GOP’s political calculus in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
In the past, Republican candidates have almost uniformly spoken out against same-sex marriage. So you might expect the party’s 2016 contenders to voice their dissatisfaction and grumble loudly in the wake of Monday’s news. However, many have instead chosen to bite their tongues.
Here are the four ways the GOP’s 2016 hopefuls have responded to the big news:
Many Republicans appear reluctant to engage in a dialogue about what was once a top wedge issue. “We don’t have to agree with the decision, but as long as we’re not against it we should be okay,” an anonymous aide to a 2016 presidential contender told TIME. “The base, meanwhile, will focus its anger on the Court, and not on us.”
In other words, candidates would rather avoid the issue entirely than choose between being on the wrong side of a losing battle and alienating their Republican base.
Chris Christie, for instance, declined to comment on the subject at a campaign event in Connecticut. “I haven’t had a chance to read it,” Christie insisted. “All I saw was the headline when I was coming up here, so I don’t give comments based on headlines.”
Some potential candidates seem to have thrown in the towel. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, for example, is a contender who embraced surrender. As reported by TIME, Walker acknowledged, “It’s over in Wisconsin. 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.”
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, also a likely candidate, echoed Walker’s sentiments that the matter is out of his hands. “The law is certainly in the Court’s court,” Jindal explained.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) isn’t ready to slink away quietly. On Monday, Cruz declared that he would introduce an amendment to rein in the Supreme Court’s power over marriage laws.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower-court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible,” Cruz stated. He also called the inactivity by the Supreme Court “judicial activism at its worst.”
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee went one step further than Cruz in his opposition to the Court’s ruling. On Monday, Huckabee clung to the idea that Republican governors can still prevent same-sex marriages.
“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.”
Want more political news and analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!