Same-sex marriage is back as a front-burner issue in American politics.
On Aug. 4, a federal judge in San Francisco held that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, striking down part of the California Constitution defining marriage as one man and one woman. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ordered an expedited schedule to consider this case, with arguments to be held in December.
Now former RNC chairman and 2004 Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman came out this week, announcing he's gay, pushing the Republican Party to support the gay-rights agenda. Republicans leaders are beginning to weigh in on where they stand, including on the agenda's centerpiece: Redefining marriage.
The Republican Party has an official position on same-sex marriage. It's found in the 2008 GOP platform, which is the clear and incontestable Republican position until the 2012 convention. When one of your authors (Blackwell) was serving as vice chairman of the GOP Platform Committee, there was a singular focus on producing a party platform that fully reflects the vast majority of Republican Party members.
The GOP platform could not be more explicit: Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The fundamental institution of human civilization should be preserved as it has been known through the entirety of American history and Western civilization. Supporters of same-sex marriage had the full opportunity to make their case to the party. They made it, and they lost.
But whether same-sex marriage should be legal is a completely separate issue from whether there's a right to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. A person can support same-sex marriage but admit that it's a state issue to be decided locally, not a right that can be imposed on a state -- or the nation -- by federal judges.
That's where supporters of same-sex marriage cannot have it both ways. Central to the Republican agenda is that the U.S. Constitution must be interpreted according to its original meaning. If the Constitution must be changed, then we do so democratically through the amendment process. Republicans demand that judges interpret the Constitution as written, not rewrite it from the bench.
The judicial activism that Judge Walker in San Francisco displayed in declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is the same activism that Republicans decry on every other front. It's the same activism found in Roe v. Wade, declaring a right to abortion. It's also the same activism that would uphold Obamacare as constitutional. It's the same activism that declares foreign terrorists are protected by the Bill of Rights and habeas corpus.
You cannot have it both ways. Do you want to see Obamacare struck down as unconstitutional? Then you can't have a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
Republican leadership is working hard to prevent a party split. Millions of Tea Party people are justifiably fed up with the GOP and threatening to abandon the GOP in favor of a third party if Republicans do not fully attack out-of-control federal spending and power with a commitment to constitutional government.
That danger cuts both ways.
Social conservatives cannot be played as fools by the Republican Party. They are not "useful idiots." If Republican leaders abandon social conservatives and the party platform, then they will face the same disaster as if Tea Partiers abandon the GOP. Millions of social conservatives will either stay home, or will vote for a third-party candidate who takes up the mantle of marriage, life, faith and family.
As we discuss in the introduction of our book, The Blueprint, this is exactly what President Obama wants to see. If a majority of Americans reject the agenda of President Obama and his Democratic Party -- as, based on a number of polls, they do today -- the only way that Obama and the Dems can hold on to power is to split the opposition vote. If the GOP splits either over economic issues or over social issues, then President Obama could be reelected with as little as 40% of the vote. It's happened before in American politics, with 1912 as a perfect example. The year 2012 will be the 100-year anniversary of when a Republican split gave America a Democratic president.
If Republicans flinch on marriage, America could have eight years of President Obama.
Ken Blackwell was vice chairman of the 2008 Republican National Convention Platform Committee and senior fellow with the Family Research Council.
Ken Klukowski is a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union and a research fellow with Liberty University School of Law.
They are the authors of the national bestseller The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.