A political movement that doesn’t have its eyes on the road ahead won’t like what it finds when it gets there. On Monday, Republicans announced that they are gearing up for a legal battle over gay rights, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the political sand is shifting beneath their feet. A new CNN/ Opinion Research Poll shows that a majority of Americans think that gay marriage should be legal.
The poll, released Tuesday, finds 51% of Americans in favor of legalized gay marriage while 47% think it should be illegal. If the country seems split on the issue, it is, but the split is not likely to last, for social attitudes on gay marriage have been going one way and one way only in recent years: towards favoring marriage.
This information isn’t new, and Republican leaders read polls. They understand which way public sentiment is headed on the issue. Yet yesterday, Speaker Boehner announced the hiring of a top notch litigator to take up the task of defending a statute, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), against a multi-front legal assault on its dubious constitutionality.
House Republicans justify the decision to defend it on the grounds that they are doing what the Justice Department ought to be doing: defending a federal law. (DOJ isn’t defending it however because they decided the law isn’t constitutional and would be a waste of taxpayer dollars).
The GOP position is obviously nonsense. It’s a purely political decision: House Republicans are defending DOMA because it’s an easy way to score political points with the social conservatives in the party. This might seem like good politics to some of the more conservative Republicans today, but DOMA is bad law and defending it is bad politics.
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