Not surprisingly, the Right’s reaction to last week’s ruling by the California Supreme Court in favor of equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians was swift and negative.
Former Rep. Ernest Istook, now of the Heritage Foundation, evoked Nazi metaphors to blame those who supported civil unions as a compromise: “By trying to appease homosexual rights activists, those who have refused to stand up for traditional marriage helped to create this court ruling. They are the Neville Chamberlains of the cultural wars.”
Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said he was “saddened for the people of California” but “especially for the children of that state.”
“The California Supreme Court ruling not only overruled the very clear will of the people, it also proposes to overrule God’s design,” Duke said. “These judges may think they know more about marriage than the rest of us, but I am confident they don’t know more about marriage than God. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Children need that environment to give them their best chance to fulfill their great potential. That’s not only my opinion and the opinion of most of the people in this country, it’s God’s opinion, and His opinion overrules the opinion of any judges.
Indeed, the Right emphasized this “activist judges” angle; Gary Bauer, attacking the “four unelected robed radicals,” wrote:
It was an egregious exercise in judicial activism – of judges wielding raw political power to redefine our most basic values. But that is how the Left has succeeded. It cannot achieve its goals through the democratic process via the elected legislatures, so it ignores the people and goes to the courts, where it relies on political activists cloaked in black who answer to no one. The Left succeeds by using the most undemocratic methods possible.
Of course, Bauer may not realize that, while appointed at first, justices on California’s Supreme Court face voters at the next general election; each of the justices in the majority for this case has been retained by voters at least once. Bauer is probably aware, though, that the “elected legislature” in California passed marriage equality in 2005 and 2007, only to have it vetoed both times by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Nevertheless, right-wing activists hoped the decision would energize opponents of gay rights into action. “The good news is that I believe this will re-ignite the debate over a federal constitutional amendment,” according to Concerned Women for America’s Matt Barber. Jan LaRue called on Californians to recall members of the state’s Supreme Court in the way they recalled the governor several years ago. “Are you going to sit by and do nothing while four black-robed despots take away your right to govern yourselves?”
Meanwhile, the effort to put on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the California ballot continues—now, apparently, with more funding.
And, in spite of a beleaguered GOP’s effort to keep a low profile on social wedge issues during this election cycle, the Right is hoping the decision will push John McCain to “speak out more strongly in support of defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” as Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council put it.