Gov. Bobby Jindal, a perpetual cellar-dweller in Republican presidential polls, finally managed to best his rivals at something on Friday. The governor was the first GOP candidate to pounce on the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage legal across the land.
Needless to say, Jindal didn’t take the opportunity to congratulate all the happy couples who can now head to the altar, including more than a few of his own constituents. They, and all the people who stood up to discrimination, worked to change hearts and minds and fought to reach this day, didn’t merit a mention in the governor’s resentful statement.
Instead, Jindal spoke only of the coming travails of those who refuse to see their fellow citizens the way the high court’s slim majority did, as deserving of due process and equal protection under the law.
“This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision,” he wrote. “This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty. The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies.”
The statement was quickly followed by an emailed fundraising plea.
“Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” said the text, which was immediately followed by a big blue “DONATE” button.
Jindal’s response, of course, should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his take on issues surrounding gay people and gay rights, from his full-throated defense of “Duck Dynasty” elder Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality to bestiality, to his embrace of a failed “religious freedom” bill to prevent legal consequences to businesses that refuse to serve same-sex couples.
Nor does it stand out among GOP candidates. Some, including Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, offered vague statements of tolerance toward all those newly eligible spouses even as they blasted the decision. Others, such as Mike Huckabee, called the court’s very legitimacy into question.
“I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat,” Huckabee said. OK, then.
And some made it all about themselves. Here’s Ben Carson’s statement: “I support same sex civil unions but to me, and millions like me, marriage is a religious service not a government form.”
The problem with that statement is that marriage is very much a government institution, one that confers material rights and benefits. Carson and anyone else’s personal comfort or discomfort with the idea of same-sex marriage is irrelevant under the Constitution.
Marriage also is a religious rite, of course, but nothing in this decision forces any church or other religious body to change the way it defines marriage — although many already have and more surely will.
Speaking of which, how out of step do all those sour politicians with their scolding statements look against the backdrop of so many celebrations, so much joy among — and for — the couples who can now simply live their lives, love their partners and form their families as they see fit?
And how strangely fitting is it that the decision came down just as the nation is grappling with how to think about once officially sanctioned symbols and attitudes that are now recognized as morally indefensible?
State-sponsored discrimination against gay couples is now a thing of the past, and every signal, every poll and every anecdote confirms that our country is ready for the change. That there’s no future in fighting it should be especially clear to politicians like the 44-year-old Jindal, who is the youngest candidate in the presidential field and can look forward to many years of being in an ever-shrinking minority.
Maybe he sees nobility in defending a lost cause.
History, it’s quite obvious, will disagree.