I hate taking Rush Limbaugh down a peg as much as any conservative—and am usually found defending his quotes against the left—but listening to him on Tuesday afternoon deconstruct the same-sex marriage debate and oral arguments presented to the Supreme Court on California’s Proposition 8 was downright painful. Principled opposition to same-sex marriage is abundant, though dwindling, but lately Rush and other conservatives seem to be grasping at straws:
- According to one caller to Rush’s show who was an appellate litigator in Los Angeles, Prop 8 defenders didn’t have standing to ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule California’s enactment of the law after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided not to defend it anymore. Therefore, the Supreme Court must invalidate the Ninth Circuit’s ruling overturning Prop 8.
Yes, you read that correctly—the defendant (the state of California) decided to no longer defend its original opposition to gay marriage; therefore, the plaintiff can’t challenge the defendant’s original position, and Prop 8 must stay on the books. Only if the defendant still supported Prop 8 could the plaintiff challenge it—but not if the defendant had dropped all support for it. Even the conservative Supreme Court Justices should make mincemeat of that argument.
- According to Rush, same-sex marriage proponents have made such inroads in pushing their case in the media that those discussing the issue are now required to recite “opposite-sex marriage” instead of just “marriage.”
This is patently ridiculous, in that (1) commentators who oppose same-sex marriage have never, to my knowledge, been bullied into saying “opposite-sex marriage”; (2) such pundits already have to add a less precise modifier—“traditional”—if they want to indicate that they’re talking about opposite-sex marriage; and (3) if same-sex marriage proponents are correct, then marriage for same-sex couples is simply “marriage,” not “gay marriage,” and it’s opponents who are forcing the distinction. (No man has ever asked a woman, “Will you opposite-sex marry me?” Has any man ever asked another man, “Will you gay marry me?”) During the legal debate over same-sex marriage, both sides have to clarify their terms, but that doesn’t mean same-sex marriage proponents are trying to trick people with language.
- Speaking of forcing, according to Rush, same-sex marriage has never won at the ballot box, only when courts or legislatures have forced it on them; every time same-sex marriage has been put to a popular vote, it’s been rejected.
Conservatives have been using this canard for so long that perhaps Rush was reciting it out of habit, but even I was surprised at his erroneous repetition of this claim (which Mark Levin restated on his Tuesday evening show). On a single night in November 2012, voters in state referenda legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland, Washington, and Maine, and voted down a proposed ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota. I know a lot of us conservatives have tried to block out the fog of Election Night 2012, but did Rush have the whole evening lobotomized from his brain?
- According to Rush, conservatives don’t try to force their will on the people like liberals do.
Except with, um, referenda like Prop 8, as well as dozens of referenda states have enacted or tried to enact to ban same-sex marriage. Also state referenda like the one in North Dakota that would effectively ban abortion, or Mississippi’s infamous “personhood amendment.” Or referenda to remove state court justices, force public funding of religious institutions, or secede from the nation. Other than that, conservatives never, ever use state referenda.
- Rush claimed that our Founding Founders could never have envisioned same-sex marriage several hundred years down the road; therefore, the Supreme Court cannot infer original Constitutional intent for the institution.
Original intent refers to broad principles that are applied to concrete instances, and invoking original intent doesn’t imply that our Founders supported or could have foreseen every specific example those principles would ever cover. Our Founders never thought we’d have interracial marriage, women voting, or a half-black President, either.
- Rush claimed that those who call same-sex marriage a civil right dismiss all opponents as bigots.
If I were the type to casually label entire groups of people based on what I thought they believed, rather than asking them what they believe, I would ascribe bigotry to gay marriage opponents who assume supporters all cynically label them as bigots. But I’m not, so I’ll assume that they’ve just had a few bad experiences with shrill same-sex marriage proponents and should try discussing the issue with a wider array of supporters, including those who respect their prerogative to thoughtfully evolve on the subject.
There are a thousand other stupid arguments made against gay marriage that have been shot down as ridiculous again and again, and I applaud Rush for not trotting out the more shopworn and vulgar ones. But c’mon, Rush—you can do better.
Or maybe today’s show proves that, on this issue, you can’t.
- Prop 8 Lawyer Makes Surprise Remark (huffingtonpost.com)
- Prop 8′s Fate Now In SCOTUS’ Hands, Seems Certain To Go Down (lezgetreal.com)
- Supreme Court Begins Decisions On Same-Sex Marriage (nyulocal.com)
- Supreme Court heard arguments on Prop 8 today (gravityswings.wordpress.com)
- 5 possible outcomes of the Supreme Court Prop. 8 case (kens5.com)