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August 19, 2014 12:07 PM Having It Both Ways on Same-Sex Marriage

By Ed Kilgore

At the Prospect today, Paul Waldman notes that rank-and-file Republicans along with elected officials are drifting towards the “leave it up to the states” position on same-sex marriage:

It wasn’t too long ago that Republicans were advocating a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But few people in the GOP mainstream say that anymore. If you want to know where the axis of the party is, one of the best ways is to look at the people who want to get that party’s voters to make them the nominee for president. And they all seem to agree. Rand Paul thinks the marriage question should be left to the states. Rick Perry thinks being gay is like being an alcoholic, but he also says, leave marriage to the states. Bobby Jindal says we ought to leave it to the states. Jeb Bush is of the opinion that it should be left to the states. Scott Walker has an idea: Leave it to the states. Marco Rubio says, you guessed it, leave it to the states. Ted Cruz even has legislation that would [leave] it to the states.

Now what makes this positioning especially interesting is that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are in the process of being mowed down systematically, mostly by federal judges (12 judicial rulings overturning gay marriage bans are under appeal, but it’s pretty clear which way the wind is blowing, unless the Supreme Court throws us all a curve).

But that makes the “let the states decide it” position even easier for Republicans. They can be for “federalism” and attack “judicial activism” at the same time, and not get that much blowback from people in states where marriage equality is a reality, even if “the state” never made it so. So no wonder they’re all stampeding in that direction.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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