A federal judge just struck down the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, so what Walker’s saying is technically correct. As more courts step in and remove this issue from the democratic process, it really doesn’t matter what a governor or a legislator thinks. They’re powerless to stop it — especially if they happen to be running for reelection this year as a Republican in a blue state where a majority (or near majority) of voters now supports legalizing SSM.
How about a would-be president, though? He should probably have a thought or two on the subject, no?
During a 12-minute news conference at a muddy and messy groundbreaking event in Oak Creek, the first-term Republican governor argued that his position on same-sex marriage is no longer relevant.
“It really doesn’t matter what I think now,” Walker said at one point. “It’s in the constitution.”…
“I don’t comment on everything out there,” he responded.
Except he usually does, especially on a hot-button issue like this one.
Walker bristled when it was suggested he was refusing to answer the question. “You can print whatever you want, but I did not decline comment,” he said.
OK, let’s try it one more time.
Is the governor — like some other conservatives — rethinking his position on same-sex marriage?
“No,” Walker said. “I’m just not stating one at all.”
He hasn’t changed his mind on opposing SSM (I think?), he just … doesn’t want to talk about it. And hasn’t, actually, for some time. Shortly after the federal ruling last month, he sidestepped the question by saying, “I don’t know what (allowing gay marriage) means. Voters don’t talk to me about that. They talk to me about the economy. They talk to me about their kids’ schools.” The state’s handling of the federal ruling has been chaotic, with the attorney general battling county clerks over whether marriage licenses should issue immediately or wait for the appeal, but all Walker had to say about it was a lone sentence about defending the state constitution. Back in November, in an interview with BuzzFeed, he went even further in trying to cut the SSM Gordian knot:
On the marriage issue, he can probably best be described as “evolving.” Pointing to a 2006 state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Walker was quick to note — much to his apparent relief — that he was effectively powerless in the debate. “From my standpoint, as governor I won’t ever have any say in that because if you’re going to change the constitution, all it requires is the legislature and then a vote of the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said his two college-aged sons, who have grown more aware of gay rights issues while on campus, have tried to persuade him that the government should withdraw from the marriage business altogether, leaving it up to churches and other institutions to define the rite on their own.
“That’s a solid argument,” Walker said. “I personally may not embrace that yet. But that, to me, is a bigger question… I get their concerns.”
The reason he’s seen as a strong candidate in 2016 is because, in theory, he checks all the important boxes: Executive experience, midwestern, fiscal warrior, and … socially conservative. Yet here he is flirting with a libertarian approach to marriage, one that would put gay unions on the same legal footing as straight ones by removing government sanction from the process entirely. What happens to his social-con support in Iowa when Huckabee or Santorum starts clubbing him on that? I guess he figures he’ll worry about that when the time comes. Job one is getting reelected, and talking up a Federal Marriage Amendment in, er, Wisconsin wouldn’t be helpful to that.
Obvious exit question: Is this going to be the party line for Republican candidates in 2016? “I oppose gay marriage personally but am powerless to do (or even say!) anything about it. I trust our state governments and our courts to handle the issue responsibly.” Good enough for me. How about you?