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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Republican leadership abandons religious right


House Republican leaders had a uniform response to the Supreme Court’s decision to take up gay marriage: silence.

The high court’s decision last week to hear two cases relating to same-sex marriage puts that issue at the center of the national debate. And it does so at an exceedingly awkward time for Republicans, many of whom are trying to downplay or moderate their party’s views on social issues to chart a path back to electoral success.

The timing is most uncomfortable for House Republicans, who are playing a key role in one of the cases the court agreed to hear.

In June, the House of Representatives told the Supreme Court that the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act “is an issue of great national importance” that urgently requires the justices’ attention. The 1996 law denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples.

But when the court agreed on Friday to hear one of the DOMA cases early next year, the Republican leadership had nothing to say about it.

There was a time — and it wasn’t all that long ago — when the religious right was everything in the Republican Party. You still can’t be pro-choice and Republican. But the GOP has always used these social issues as wedge issues and ways to trick voters into voting against their own best interests economically. And that means they were also using the religious right.

Now that the wedges don’t split off a big enough chunk to win elections, they’re done with them. Religious conservatives who didn’t see this coming were blind to the obvious.

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