We asked twenty-nine prominent Christian social conservatives what they are looking for from GOP presidential candidates if the Supreme Court “finds” a right to gay marriage in our Constitution.
In terms of rhetoric, the response was summed up by one SoCon insider who said, simply, “It’s not over.”
The Court’s decision is “nothing more than legislating from the bench,” another insider said. “From all of [the candidates], I am looking for a Lincolnesque response—that the decision, like Dred Scott, is wrong and unacceptable.”
The idea of reaffirming the basic nature of marriage was also featured prominently among these social conservative insiders. “Quickly and clearly affirm God’s design for marriage as one man and one woman,” one said. “Link this, using the justices’ own words during oral arguments” to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Another SoCon insider took a different tact: “I want candidates to make the larger case that marriage has been in all cultures between a man and a woman and why children need a mother and father.”
One prominent conservative activist said he is looking for acknowledgement that these are GOP-appointed justices making this call and a pledge to do a more thorough vetting of judicial nominees. Another proposed that, given past failures, social conservatives should elicit a promise to appoint particular Supreme Court justices if elected.
We asked our SoCon insiders to choose which is more important to them: a candidate who supports a constitutional amendment or a candidate who will promise to pass practical religious liberty legislation, such as the First Amendment Defense Act, to protect the 501(c)(3) status of Christian schools and ministries.
Many said “both” or refused to choose. But when asked to choose, our SoCon insiders prioritized practical religious liberty protection by a 3-1 margin. “While I would love to see a constitutional amendment passed, I have been unable to come up with any political scenario that results in the super-majority necessary to pass one,” said one conservative. “I fear that if we demand fidelity to an unachievable remedy, we hurt candidates while further demoralizing the grassroots because they are unlikely to see it accomplished.”
Even the “both ands” recognized the importance of religious protections: “I would want to see the presidential candidates be specific about legislation they would support in the first 100 days securing the religious liberty of Americans who believe in marriage, and, at the same time, be clear about the ultimate goal of a constitutional amendment to protection marriage,” said one activist.
Several volunteered that they are looking for a pledge of executive action immediately. “I’d want to hear them pledge to move quickly to scour Federal Agencies for any indication that such a ruling by the court would be used to impinge on any American’s right of conscience or free expression of faith, and to vigorously interdict any such attempts,” said another.
When asked whether they will be paying particular attention to any GOP candidates’ responses, Paul, Walker, Bush, Christie, Trump, and Rubio were all specifically named. “If they say the Court has spoken and it’s time to move on, that will be completely unacceptable,” noted one SoCon insider.
Above all particulars, social conservatives are looking for courage and leadership on marriage. “I feel very strongly that the candidate needs to show leadership on marriage, by refusing to be intimidated and using his or her bully pulpit to argue for natural marriage,” as one social conservative leader put it.
The Social Conservative Insider Poll consists of: Gary Bauer, Kim Bengard, Frank Cannon, Clint Cline, Steve Deace, Chuck Donovan, Erick Erickson, Michael Farris, Maggie Gallagher, Kathryn Lopez, Shannon McGinley, Eric Metaxas, Gaston Mooney, Frank Schubert, Alan Sears, Todd Starnes, Bob Vanderplaats, Bill Witchterman, Becky Norton-Dunlop, Penny Nance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Tony Perkins, Ellen Barrosse, James Robison, Fr. Frank Pavone, Dr. James Dobson, David Barton, Marvin Olasky, and Charmaine Yoest.
The SoCon Insider poll will be a recurring feature on ThePulse2016.com, giving insight into how leaders of this influential GOP voting bloc are thinking about issues and candidates in real time.