House Republican leaders had a uniform response to the Supreme Court’s decision to take up gay marriage: silence.
The high court’s decision last week to hear two cases relating to same-sex marriage puts that issue at the center of the national debate. And it does so at an exceedingly awkward time for Republicans, many of whom are trying to downplay or moderate their party’s views on social issues to chart a path back to electoral success.
The timing is most uncomfortable for House Republicans, who are playing a key role in one of the cases the court agreed to hear.
In June, the House of Representatives told the Supreme Court that the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act “is an issue of great national importance” that urgently requires the justices’ attention. The 1996 law denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
But when the court agreed on Friday to hear one of the DOMA cases early next year, the Republican leadership had nothing to say about it.
Advocates on both sides of the issue said they’d seen no statements from Republican lawmakers about the court’s decision to take on DOMA and an even more provocative dispute regarding a ban California voters approved on same-sex marriage.
“I’m personally grateful to Speaker Boehner for being willing to defend the law, but it’s clear GOP elites don’t want to talk about it and want to keep it as quiet as possible,” said Maggie Gallagher, a founder of the National Organization for Marriage and a fellow at the conservative American Principles Project. “That’s so obvious, I don’t see any point in pretending otherwise.”
Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council said he assumes from conversations he’s had with congressional aides that lawmakers are pleased the high court is taking up the issue. “But there’s just radio silence” publicly, McClusky said. “I was disappointed there wasn’t more from the Hill.”
And a top gay-rights activist, who asked not to be named because of his outreach to Republicans, said he hasn’t “heard or seen anything” from GOP leaders or members. “They’re really just hoping this issue will go away.”