Celebrants daubed in rainbow colors could have been no more delighted than Gov. Bobby Jindal by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gay people have a constitutional right to marry.
While gay activists rejoice that the fight is over, Jindal must regard it as a godsend, too, for he still has skin in the game. He is clearly determined to seize every opportunity to deplore the ruling. Disagreeing with the Supreme Court is not necessarily futile if you are a politician looking to hornswoggle voters, and Jindal needs to hornswoggle lots of them.
To do so, he evidently hopes to harp on the ruling as his presidential campaign takes him from pig farm to pig farm in Iowa. This might qualify as pearls before swine, if he weren’t such a lousy public speaker.
That all his thoughts are on Iowa was obvious from that nauseating, cutesy video he posted online that supposedly showed him breaking the news to his kids that they might get to go back there now that he has officially joined the quest for the GOP presidential nomination. No family-values cliché is too tacky for Jindal; he even tells his daughter she can have a puppy if they move into the White House.
He has evidently figured that the quirky caucus system gives him the best chance of breathing life into his quest for the GOP presidential nomination. He already was betting on an imaginary threat to religious liberty as a vote-getter; now the Supreme Court has enabled him to double down.
Any issue that will divert attention from Jindal’s abysmal performance as governor can only help, of course, but he faces stiff competition among Republican presidential contenders in raising the specter of Christians under persecution. Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, for instance, also are lambasting the Supreme Court for a decision that will supposedly force pastors to solemnize sinful unions.
Whether it will come to that is by no means certain. It should not be beyond the wit of this great Republic to reconcile the First Amendment rights of the clergy with what the Supreme Court now says is the 14th Amendment right of gay people to get hitched. Regardless, this is the hot-button issue du jour on the right, and Jindal represents the only state in the union that initially refused to issue a single license for a gay wedding. The delay in complying may have been pointless and dog in the manger, but it did help Jindal’s shtick as the champion of traditional morality.
Perhaps it will play well in Iowa, although attitudes to gay marriage there have changed considerably since the state Supreme Court blessed it in 2009. That ruling made Iowa the fourth state to embrace a unisex exchange of vow, and public reaction was so hostile that three of the justices who voted yea were soon ousted in retention elections.
Now, however, polls show a majority of Iowans, in line with national trends, are cool with gay people getting married. That may not hold good for voters sufficiently motivated to traipse through the snow to attend a Republican caucus, however, and Jindal is presumably sure it won’t be.
His objections to the Supreme Court ruling will strike a chord beyond evangelical circles, because of its implications for another constitutional amendment — the 10th. He agrees with the four dissenting justices who forcefully averred that the other five were too big for their breeches and had seized on an issue that is the proper province of state legislatures.
The dissenters make a persuasive point. Even accepting that the Supreme Court’s role is to interpret the constitution in light of evolving standards, evolution was never this quick. Until a Supreme Court ruling only 12 years ago, gay sex was a crime in several states, including Louisiana. Voters in Louisiana and 30 other states also have adopted state constitutional amendments in recent years to say marriage must feature one man and one woman.
Still, it is not easy to see what religious freedom is threatened by gay marriage, unless it be the freedom to dictate what other people do. As the pilgrim fathers showed from the start, persecution is jake with religious zealots so long as they are not on the receiving end. Jindal will hope Iowa Christians can be fooled into thinking that they are right now, and he will doubtless be quite barefaced about it.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.