If two forces were ever in conflict in America of 2011, the idea that states trump the federal government, commonly known as tentherism, and the idea that marriage between a man and a woman are so sacred that federal law should ban it, stand out. How can these two mutually incompatible goals co-exist?
They do, apparently, in two of our main Republican candidates for President, Michele “I won’t answer questions” Bachmann and Rick “Pray for rain” Perry. That’s right; it’s not just Newt Gingrich who is congenitally confused about what he thinks.
Bachmann wants a Federal Marriage Amendment banning marriage equality. She is also on record as supporting the interpretation of the Tenth Amendment which would give states the right to make their own laws.
BACHMANN: In New York state, they have passed the law at the state legislative level and, under the 10th amendment, the states have the right to set the laws that they want to set.
WALLACE: So even though you oppose it, then its ok from — your point of view — for New York to say that same-sex marriage is legal.
BACHMANN: That is up to the people of New York. I think that it’s best to allow the people to decide on this issue. I think it’s best if there is an amendment that goes on the ballot, where people can weigh in. […]
WALLACE: But you would agree, if its passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor then that’s the state’s position.
BACHMANN: It’s state law. And the 10th amendmet reserves to the states that right.
These words were spoken literally only a matter of minutes before this:
On Sunday, GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann said she would support a federal constitutional amendment which would overturn New York state’s new law legalizing gay marriage and similar laws in other states.
On Fox News Sunday, Rep. Bachmann reiterated calls for an amendment that would define marriage as “between a man and woman.”
She said that federal law would trump state law. Confused? She is. She just doesn’t realize it, as insisting her support for states’ rights and a federal ban on marriage equality was “entirely consistent.” Riiiiiight….
It seems the party of moral certainty is capable of a great deal of moral relativism; it can’t tell which is right and which is wrong.
Of the seven Republican contenders at the presidential debate in June, five out supported the Federal Marriage Amendment (only Herman Cain and Ron Paul did not). And now Rick Perry finds himself in an identical logical conundrum. He said he was “fine” with New York’s new marriage law because, as he told a crowd of donors on Friday, “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”
Well of course, the Republican base wasn’t having any of that! You can only support states rights if states do what you want them to do. If not, bring in the feds!
But it turns out, says Kelly Shackelford, CEO of the Liberty Institute, that Rick Perry has always favored a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality! Perry’s spokesman, Mark Miner, confirms this, saying “Nothing has changed with the governor’s philosophy here.” (In other words, he’s as wishy-washy as ever?)
But how can this be? How can you espouse both the primacy of states’ rights and the primacy of federal law? Shackelford’s excuse for the governor’s conflicting positions is that “He probably could have used a much better term.”
I don’t think a different term could resolve the discrepancy. It’s simple: if you’re for one, you’re by definition against the other.
Republican political theology has painted the GOP into a tight corner of its own making. It’s painfully obvious that you cannot at the same time endorse state law over federal law, decrying federal interference in state affairs, yet at the same time demand a federal ban on marriage equality that would trump state law. If you really want the latter, you obviously do not believe in the former.
It will be amusing leading up to Election Day 2012 to watch these Republican candidates squirm and try to make these positions compatible.