Led by conservative Justice and Reagan appointee, Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled Friday, in a 5-4 decision, in favor of same-sex marriage. Despite the often binary depiction in the media, this decision is in fact a landmark victory for conservative principles. In fact, Friday’s decision is a momentous win for the founding principle of the Republican Party: individual liberty.
Consistent conservatives should frame their views in accordance with the fundamental belief that individuals, not governments, have the right to determine the course of their own lives.
Fellow conservatives, particularly within the Republican Party, typically do a good job arguing against totalitarian, one-size-fits-all approaches to policy. What works for a family in New York City, might not work in Jenison, Michigan, or Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It is for this reason that Republicans and conservatives have embraced issues such as school choice, which gives parents the right to choose the method of schooling that best fits their child’s needs. Parents, not governments, should decide what is best for their family.
Friday’s Supreme Court decision is a momentous win for the founding principle of the Republican Party: individual liberty.
Republicans and American conservatives have also been remarkably consistent on taxation. Consistent conservatives believe people should keep more of the money they work so hard to earn—not because the vulnerable don’t deserve assistance, but because individuals can and will make better, and more effective financial and charitable choices with their money than government bureaucrats.
The list of important conservative positions, all relating back to the fundamental principle of individual choice, goes on and on: property rights; freedom of association; and freedom of speech, etc.
But when the topic of gay marriage arises, some conservatives have not been consistent. The debate on marriage within the Republican Party has been hijacked by those who wish to dictate their beliefs onto others. Rather than professing consistent, conservative beliefs, some within the party have taken to advocating for a remarkably liberal, totalitarian approach.
This hypocrisy has not been lost on the electorate. Millennials, possibly the most naturally conservative-leaning constituency, laugh at the inconsistencies they hear coming from “conservative” voices on issues like gay marriage.
Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is one of those inconsistent conservatives. Walker immediately lashed out at the Supreme Court’s decision, proposing an astonishingly big-government response. Walker called for a Constitutional Amendment, ensuring that politicians will forever be able to dictate whom one should or should not be able to marry. In other words, Walker wants to cement the will of politicians into our daily lives.
Walker has taken a stunningly liberal position. As conservative Justice Kennedy wrote in his opinion, “marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order. States have contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order.” Indeed, marriage today is as much as it has ever been an important, legal contract—one which carries with it profound financial and emotional ramifications.
Walker, and others like him, seem to ignore the real-life implications of contemporary marriage, instead focusing solely on a religious definition of marriage with which they happen to agree.
Walker, like many religious conservatives, confuse civil marriage with the religious blessing of the church or synagogue. In today’s society, the word marriage means both a government document and a church’s blessing. To pretend like there is only one definition is to deny reality. Confusing the issue even further, politicians have written the word “marriage” into the tax code, where religious conservatives erroneously assume tax benefits refer to their definition of marriage.
As Justice Kennedy wrote in his decision, “same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable.” If this “constellation of benefits” was intended only for those wed under the auspices of the church, what right would opposite-sex couples married on the courthouse steps have to it? The answer is clearly that politicians didn’t mean that one must have a blessed union to jointly file their taxes.
Republicans who profess their admiration for individual liberty—for the power and freedom of choice and laissez faire—must stay consistent.
The only true conservative position, the individual right of marriage for all, has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. It’s time for consistent conservatives to come out in favor of the Court's ruling.
Richard Grenell is a Fox News Contributor. He served as the spokesman for four U.S. Ambassadors to the U.N. including John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad. Follow him on Twitter@RichardGrenell.