Dale Carpenter is a well-known University of Minnesota civil rights and constitutional law professor whose book, “Flagrant Conduct,” is about the first major Supreme Court decision on gay rights, Lawrence v. Texas.
Carpenter is also a gay-rights activist and a Republican — and he believes that his party only stands to gain from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex couples’ right to marry.
“The Supreme Court just did the Republican party a huge favor,” he said. “This allows Republicans to put the issues behind us. It has been a losing issue and it’s good to get it off the table.”
As proof, he referred to a statement issued by GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Like his Republican competitors, Bush said he believed the decision on same sex marriage should be left to the states but, Bush said, “I also believe it is time for us to move forward respectfully and as one people.”
“Move forward” was the theme of many of the statements issues by GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Marco Rubio. Others, however — including Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker — were less measured in their responses, blasting the decision as an assault on religious liberty.
The Minnesota Republican party, in a statement from chair Keith Downey, also expressed concern about religious freedom. “The implications of this ruling are as yet unknown in practice, but it must not undermine our freedom of speech and religious liberty, nor coerce churches or other religious institutions into performing marriages that their sincerely held religious beliefs do not recognize,” Downey said. “We should respect the views of fellow citizens as we move forward from this ruling.”
Carpenter feels like even those nuanced differences of opinions are progress, though. “I think ten years ago, every single Republican candidate would have made a statement supporting a constitutional amendment [to overturn the decision],” he said.
The national Republican party platform and many state GOP platforms, including Minnesota’s, have opposition to same sex marriage as one of their tenets. Carpenter says the Supreme Court ruling may spur efforts to remove that language.
Downey said he couldn’t predict changes in the state party platform. “That is a very organic process which starts with platform resolutions and flows through to the state convention,” he said. “Irrespective of the court’s rulings, platforms haven’t changed. It’s not a clean cause and effect.”
But Downey noted that the state convention last year passed a resolution directing a review of the platform, with a request for a more condensed document. A task force working on trying to clarify the platform could take a look at the same-sex marriage issue, he suggested.
Regardless, Carpenter believes the issue is now is moot. “The platform doesn’t make a substantive difference because a Republican candidate is not going to run on banning gay marriage,” he said.