Judge Walker’s decision against Proposition 8 in California only bolstered the ongoing conservative campaign to oust three judges who overturned an Iowa law banning same-sex marriage and now, at least three potential Republican presidential hopefuls — former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senator Rick Santorum, and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty — are tripping over themselves to endorse the Iowa effort:
– GINGRICH: “Iowans are unique in that they have the ability to send a very clear and simple message that the court’s behavior is unacceptable by just voting ‘no’ on the three judges who are up for reappointment. If a majority of Iowans vote ‘no,’ that will send a signal to the whole country that there is a citizens revolt under way.”
– SANTORUM: “People should decide issues, not courts. This court attempted to impose its values on society.”
– PAWLENTY: “The notion that judges stand for election is embedded in the Iowa Constitution…I would want to look at their records as a whole, but the extent that they have opined or decided they are not going to support traditional marriage, that’s not something I would agree with.”
Social issues like gay marriage may still be a driving force in Republican politics, but given Ken Mehlman’s recent admission of his homosexuality, Ted Olson’s strong advocacy for marriage equality, and the growing support for marriage equality in the states, gay issues aren’t as important in the conservative movement as they were just six years ago. As former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt told Sam Stein today, “[t]here is a strong conservative case to be made in favor of gay marriage. Marriage is an institution that strengthens and stabilizes society. It is an institution that has the capacity to bring profound joy and happiness to people and it is a matter of equality and keeping faith of one of the charters of the nation, the right to live your life.”
“More and more conservatives are saying that opposition to gay marriage would not be a litmus test for membership in the GOP. And more conservatives are making the case that no more do you want big government conservatives in the bedroom than big government liberals telling you how to live your life,” he added.
Indeed, some conservatives are even questioning the ability of candidates like Gingrich to carry the so-called “values mantra.” Gingrich “is a super-smart man, but he doesn’t know anything about commitment to marriage,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said this past Friday of the thrice-married former House speaker. “He’s the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States. His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president.”