The Cato Institute’s David Boaz argues that the GOP’s gay marriage silence speaks louder than words:
Republican candidates and their advisers know that opposition to same-sex marriage remains strong in their base, but that more than two-thirds of young voters support it. Campaigning against gay marriage is a good way to make the Democratic advantage among young people permanent.
Sometimes social change happens when people announce a change of heart. Sometimes you know it’s happening when one side tries to change the subject. That sound you don’t hear right now, of major Republican candidates making gay marriage a key issue in their campaigns? That’s the sound of social change happening.
A counter argument might point out that Ted Cruz introduced legislation to establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, and Scott Walker indicated he would support the amendment if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality. Also, there’s no doubt about the opposition to same-sex marriage by Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
But that may be missing the forest for the trees. Given the likelihood of a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality, the fact that the GOP leading contenders have not made the campaign against same-sex marriage central to their efforts is a sign of progress.
One point that should be addressed in the debate over whether the GOP is actually changing is the meme repeated by the LGBT left that voicing support for religious liberty is nothing but code for anti-gay discrimination. For instance, the Washington Blade reports as evidence, in their view, that Bush is “doubling down on opposition to anti-gay marriage” the following:
“This conscience should also be respected in people of faith who want to take a stand for traditional marriage,” Bush said [at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in D.C.]. “In a country like ours, we should recognize the power of a man and a woman loving their children with all their heart and soul as a good thing, as something that is positive and helpful for children to live a successful life.”
The phrase “traditional marriage” is often used by conservatives and especially by Bush to mean opposition to same-sex marriage.
Bush didn’t articulate any policy measure by which he would seek to oppose same-sex marriage. He hasn’t yet spoken this campaign cycle on whether he’d back a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage — an idea that GOP hopefuls Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker have endorsed.
Hardly seemed like “doubling down”; more like tossing the religious right a bone.
Elsewhere the Blade informs us:
Bush didn’t mention LGBT issues during his [campaign annoucement] speech per se, but criticized Clinton for what he said was her failure to stand up for religious freedom, which many observers read as code for anti-LGBT discrimination.
“These have been rough years for religious charities and their right of conscience, and the leading Democratic candidate basically hinted at more trouble to come,” Bush said. “Secretary Clinton insists that when the progressive agenda encounters religious beliefs to their contrary, those beliefs quote, ‘have to be changed.’ That’s what she said. That’s what she said, and I guess we should at least thank her for the warning.”
If you believe that the future of LGBT Americans lies in ensuring no religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law for religiously affiliated charities and schools, and that independent small vendors with religious-conscience objections must be forced to rectify their thinking by accepting gigs celebrating same-sex weddings or else suffer exorbitant fines and be driven out of business by the state, then I suppose religious freedom would be something you would favor stamping out.
More. John Ward writes, perceptively, at Yahoo! Politics:
Bush has done the most work, by far, of any 2016 Republican presidential candidate to lay out an intellectual framework from which to argue that a compromise can be reached between the LGBT community and religious conservatives. “I think we’re a big enough country and a tolerant enough country to allow for both to exist. I don’t believe we should discriminate against people,” Bush said in New Hampshire. “But I certainly don’t think we should push aside the big and caring hearts that people — when they act on their faith — to be able to make a difference in the lives of people.” …
On the question of gay marriage, Bush has said he personally believes marriage is between a man and a woman and that he does not think gay marriage is a constitutional right. But … Bush’s communications director is openly gay, and some of his closest aides are supporters of gay marriage.
For these and other reasons, Christian conservatives have so far tended to be lukewarm about Bush. But if he continues to make a robust defense of their point of view in the debate over religious freedom, that could change, especially if other Republicans steer clear of the issue except when it’s the focus of controversy and they’re put on the spot.
The religious right is pulling back to a defensive position around freedom of conscience for religious conservatives. The progressive left feels it’s now occupying the commanding heights and is rejecting what were recently seen as common-sense compromises (i.e., religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws).