When President Barack Obama called marriage equality a “civil right” in his sixth State of the Union address Tuesday, pro-equality lawmakers and supporters seated in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber cheered.
Unsurprisingly, many congressional Republicans were less enthused about Obama’s full-throated support of the freedom to marry as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
And now Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Party senator who may be considering a bid for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, has offered his own interpretation of how the Constitution’s promise of equal protection and due process should apply to same-sex couples.
“Well, [Obama] is certainly entitled to his views, and I think the proper place to debate those issues is in the legislative chambers,” Cruz told the Washington Blade when asked if he agreed with the president that marriage equality is a “story of freedom.”
“I’m a constitutionalist,” Cruz continued. “From the beginning of this country, marriage has been a question of the states, and we should not have the federal government, or unelected judges, setting aside the policy judgment of the elected legislatures and imposing their own instead.”
Cruz also confirmed to the D.C.-based LGBT outlet that he is still planning to introduce a federal constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage nationwide, even though such an effort would likely be dead on arrival, needing approval from two-thirds of both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of U.S. state legislatures. The 36 states (plus the District of Columbia) which currently embrace marriage equality house an estimated 70 percent of the country's population, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Cruz framed his support for amending the constitution to exclude committed same-sex couples as a facet of his being a “constitutionalist.”
“If a state chooses to adopt gay marriage, that’s within its constitutional authority to do so, but if it chooses not to, if it chooses traditional marriage, that is also within its constitutional purview,” Cruz told the Blade in response to a question about the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will consider four marriage equality cases this spring. “Part of the genius of the framers of our Constitution was allowing for the now 50 states to be laboratories of democracy, to adopt and reflect different policy choices state by state.”
Cruz isn’t the only Republican claiming that unelected judges are running roughshod over the Constitution in ruling for the freedom to marry. After his home state of Florida grudgingly embraced marriage equality this month, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (also considered a 2016 presidential contender) claimed that courts “don’t have the power” to overturn laws found to be unconstitutional.
But in the case of both GOP lawmakers, LGBT advocates pointed out that protecting the rights of a minority community is, in fact, exactly what the U.S. judicial system was created to do.
“While Sen. Cruz claims to be a ‘constitutionalist,’ he conveniently ignores the fundamental element of the Constitution that guarantees equal protection of the law for all Americans, including LGBT people,” Human Rights Campaign spokesman Stephen Peters told the Blade. “Loving and committed same-sex couples deserve the same rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with marriage, and the Supreme Court will hopefully soon affirm this. Sen. Cruz’s defiant efforts to try to stop marriage equality place him not only on the wrong side of history, but in a shameful group of people who deplorably use their influence to repress minorities.”