NEW YORK – For foes of same-sex marriage in the United States, their losing streak keeps growing. Some sense a lost cause, others vow to fight on.
On Election Day 2012, they went 0-for-4 on state ballot measures. A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages. And over the past seven months, more than a dozen federal and state judges have struck down part or all of state-level bans on gay marriage, with no rulings going the other way.
Faced with these developments, some longtime opponents of gay marriage now say that its nationwide legalization via a Supreme Court ruling is inevitable. Others refuse to concede, and some leaders of that cohort will be rallying Thursday at a March for Marriage in Washington that they hope will draw many thousands.
The event’s main sponsor is the National Organization for Marriage, which engaged in several successful state campaigns against gay marriage prior to the 2012 votes in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state that reversed the tide.
NOM is promoting the march with a website that evokes a “road to victory” and a video featuring dramatic background music.
“A competition is won by those who take the field, not by those who sit on the sidelines,” NOM President Brian Brown exhorts his supporters. “Friends, we need to take the field for marriage — and fight to win.”
Brown, in a telephone interview, said his best-case scenario hinges on a future ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the right of states to set their own marriage laws, rather than imposing same-sex marriage nationwide. Such a ruling will strengthen the position of the 31 states that currently ban gay marriage and might encourage grass-roots efforts in some of the other states to reimpose bans, Brown said. Gay couples already can wed in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
He envisions a resistance campaign comparable to that waged by the anti-abortion movement since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a nationwide right to abortion.
“In the next year or so, we’ll either have a massive victory at the Supreme Court, or we’ll need to fight for 10, 20 years to undo the damage that the court has done,” Brown said.
Among the scheduled speakers at the march is Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group that has fought in court on behalf of laws banning gay marriage.
Nimocks argues that America will be better off if the Supreme Court allows the current split among the states to continue, along with the debate over the effects of gay marriage.
“America has not fallen apart because some states have same-sex marriage and others do not,” he said. “We’ve been managing that for 10 years.”
While Nimocks and Brown are optimistic that the Supreme Court will not impose same-sex marriage, other veterans of the fight against it think differently.
“Let’s face it: Anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a seven-term conservative Republican from Utah, told a radio interviewer last month.
Maggie Gallagher, a former NOM president, also expects that outcome. In a recent blog post, she said gay-marriage opponents need to regroup and recognize that they have become “a subculture facing a dominant culture.”
“The way you keep a movement going is to define achievable victories,” she said in an interview. “The marriage movement is in the process of trying to figure out what that is.”
A leading advocate of same-sex marriage, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, said his adversaries have been placed in an ever-weakening position by trends in public opinion polls and by the recent court rulings. One after another, the judges have said they heard no convincing argument why gay couples should be denied the marriage rights afforded to opposite-sex couples.
“All the defenses of discrimination conjured up by the dwindling hard-core of opponents have been exposed as indefensible, insufficient, or untrue,” Wolfson said.
In the political realm, Democrats increasingly see advocacy of gay marriage as a winning position, while the Republican Party — whose 2012 national platform opposes gay marriage — is now experiencing divisions.
Amid the string of defeats in court, many opponents of gay marriage have focused their wrath on the judges.
Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, depicted the rulings as “judicial tyranny.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — who’ll be a featured speaker at Thursday’s march — called for the impeachment of the state judge who struck down his state’s gay-marriage ban.
“When members of the judiciary act as if they were entitled to the power of all three branches of government, it creates a disturbing abuse of power,” Huckabee said.