Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says a Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage won’t be enough to make it the law of the land overnight.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says he wants to amend the Constitution to leave the decision over who can marry up to each state.
And former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a strident social conservative, just seems to want to be asked fewer questions about it.
Their comments – all in media appearances the weekend of a conservative confab in Iowa hosted by Rep. Steve King – made clear that the party won’t be dropping its debate over just how to handle the electorate’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriage anytime soon.
The Supreme Court’s announcement that it will decide this spring whether states can ban same-sex marriage – which, after a spate of lower court decisions in recent months, is now legal in 36 states – has once again fueled debate about an issue that had faded from the focus of many Republicans in recent years.
Now, Republicans have to decide whether – and how – they can strike a balance between a conservative base that still sees marriage as between one man and one woman and a national electorate that is increasingly approving of same-sex marriage. A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 57% of Americans believe gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.
They’ll be running against a Democratic candidate who will almost certainly support same-sex marriage rights – and could even raise it to highlight cultural differences with the GOP nominee.
Here’s where some of the Republicans’ top 2016 contenders stand on gay marriage:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: In a major reversal of his 1990s position of opposing same-sex marriage rights with some hostility, Bush recently called for respect for the court’s ultimate decision in a statement, and for those on both sides of the debate.
“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush said. “I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Though he stopped fighting against a court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey, Christie has said he hopes the Supreme Court won’t mandate it everywhere.
“I don’t think there’s some referee who stands up and says, ‘OK, now it’s time for you to change your opinion,’” he said last year. “The country will resolve this over a period of time. But do I think it’s resolved? No.”
Sen. Ted Cruz: The Texas conservative firebrand has called for an amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the federal government from telling the states how to handle marriage rights.
“The Constitution makes clear marriage is a question for the states,” he said in a speech this month. “It’s not a question for a bunch of unelected federal judges who may disagree with the democratic views of the people who live in the United States of America.”
Huckabee: The socially conservative former Arkansas governor, Fox News host and 2008 Iowa caucuses winner said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes marriage is between one man and one woman – and that even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, procedurally, state legislatures would need to adopt laws implementing that ruling.
“I’m advocating an adherence to the Constitution,” he said. “I’m really saying that there is a process to change the law, and it doesn’t just involve one unilateral branch of government. … Judges can’t make law. That’s judicial supremacy and that is not constitutional.”
Jindal: The Louisiana governor, also known as a social conservative, said he’d like to amend the Constitution to allow states to define marriage. It’s similar to then-President George W. Bush’s push in his 2004 re-election bid to define marriage in the Constitution.
“I certainly support Ted Cruz and others that are talking about making an amendment in the Congress – a constitutional amendment to allow states to continue to define marriage,” he said. “I think it should be between a man and a woman.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul: Paul, who has called for the government to play a smaller role in most facets, told CNN in October that he doesn’t think lawmakers should get too involved in the issue.
“I believe in old-fashioned, traditional marriage. But I don’t really think the government needs to be too involved with this, and I think the Republican Party can have people on both sides of the issue,” he said. When asked if he could change his own view on the issue one day, Paul shrugged.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: When a federal judge struck down the Texas law limiting marriage to one man and one woman in February 2014, Perry lashed out, saying the decision flew in the face of the state’s voters’ wishes.
“Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens,” he said in a statement then.
Later that summer, Perry compared homosexuals to alcoholics.
“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: The 2012 GOP nominee who is mulling another bid has stuck by his opposition to same-sex marriage, telling Fox News in 2013 that he considers one-man, one-woman households “the ideal setting for raising a child.”
“I believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that’s because I believe the ideal setting for raising a child is where there’s a mother and a father in the home,” Romney said. “Other people have differing views and I respect that, whether that’s in my party or in the Democratic Party. But these are very personal matters. My hope is that when we discuss things of this nature, we show respect for people who have differing views.”
Sen. Marco Rubio: The Florida freshman senator recently told CNN that he believes “the institution of marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman,” but called for the Supreme Court’s decision to be respected – even if that decision is to allow same-sex marriage everywhere.
“I wouldn’t agree with their ruling, but that would be the law of the land that we would have to follow until it’s somehow reversed – either by a future Supreme Court, or a U.S. constitutional amendment, which I don’t think is realistic or foreseeable,” he said.
Santorum: Long known as an advocate for socially conservative cultural values, Santorum bristled at questions about same-sex marriage in Iowa over the weekend.
“What I think is important is marriage and the family. And I think the most important thing we can do as a party is to restore the importance of marriage, encouraging marriage from an economic point of view as well as a societal point of view,” he said.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Though he’s long said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, in 2014 Walker stopped fighting a court ruling that allowed same-sex marriage in his state.
“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” Walker said then. “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.”