Positioning himself as a social conservative amid speculation he’ll run for the White House, Mike Huckabee maintained this week that courts don’t have the authority to impose marriage equality without agreement by the state legislatures.
While promoting his new book, “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy,” the former Arkansas governor made the comments in a radio interview Tuesday with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.
“One thing I am angry about, though, Hugh, is this notion of judicial supremacy, where if the courts make a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say well, ‘that’s settled, and it’s the law of the land.’ No, it isn’t the law of the land,” Huckabee said. “Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law. They can interpret one. And then the legislature has to create enabling legislation, and the executive has to sign it, and has to enforce it.”
Asked to elaborate on whether he was calling for civil disobedience over these rulings, Huckabee said a ruling against a state ban on same-sex marriage should lead to a process where the legislative and executive branches of government come to a resolution in agreement with the court.
“The point is states would be in a position that their legislatures would have to go into session,” Huckabee said. “They would have to create legislation that the governor would sign. If they don’t, then there is not same-sex marriage in that state. Now if the federal courts say well, you’re going to have to do it, well, then you have a confrontation. At that point, somebody has to decide is the court right? If it is, then the legislation will be passed.”
The possible presidential contender also said judicial rulings in favor of same-sex marriage will lead to polygamous couples seeking marriage rights under the U.S. Constitution.
“And I think there’s going to be immediate cases filed where a person will say well, I’d like to marry two women, or I’d like to marry two men for a woman,” Huckabee said. “And who’s to stop that?”
Huckabee’s remarks on court rulings in favor same-sex marriage came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear cases seeking marriage rights for gay couples in what will likely lead to a nationwide resolution on the issue. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supreme Court at any time is expected to rule on same-sex marriage as a result of litigation in Huckabee’s home state.
Evan Wolfson, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Marry, said Huckabee would do well to take a lesson from civil rights history in his own state to inform his views on court decisions on marriage.
“It didn’t do America or Arkansas any good the last time a governor of Arkansas urged Americans to flout the Constitution’s command of equality and a decision of the Supreme Court back in the 1950s,” Wolfson said. “It’s sad to see Mike Huckabee trying to roll back the clock to those ugly days. Fortunately a vast majority of Americans and Arkansans will not be beguiled by this kind of isolated appeals to the worst.”
Huckabee’s stated belief that state legislatures must follow up with legislation on same-sex marriage after courts rule against marriage bans places him in a different category than other potential presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who’ve simply said courts don’t have authority under the Constitution to strike down state marriage laws. But it’s also different from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said, “regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.”
But his words also depart from the perception in some media reports that Huckabee was moderating his tone on marriage. In his book, the conservative firebrand writes that the claims that same-sex marriage are destroying society are “greatly overstated,” although he also said bisexuals would want two spouses of the different sex if same-sex marriage is made legal.
Huckabee also took aim in the interview at President Obama, who after initially opposing same-sex marriage in 2008 on the basis that “God is in the mix,” came out in favor of it after a period of evolution in 2012.
“I believe like Barack Obama said he believed back in 2008, that it’s an issue that has been settled by the Bible, and God is in the mix,” Huckabee said. “Now one of three things – either Barack Obama was lying in 2008, he’s been lying now since he’s changed his view, or the Bible got rewritten, and he was the only one who got the new version. So I’m just going to have to say that I haven’t been given the role of editor.”
Ian Sams, spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, in turn took aim at Huckabee for expressing views against LGBT rights.
“Frankly, it’s sad and tiring that every day a different Republican presidential hopeful feels the need to espouse their anti-equality views,” Sams said. “Progress for LGBT Americans is sweeping the nation – at the ballot box, in courtrooms and in the hearts and minds of voters. These guys need to get out of the 1950s and join in, instead of couching their anti-marriage equality rhetoric in the played-out language of process.”
LGBT advocates said Huckabee’s remarks demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the judicial system.
Stephen Peters, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said Huckabee is “pitifully out of touch” with the truth and the majority of Americans who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“While the rest of the country embraces the fundamental American value of liberty and justice for all, Mike Huckabee continues to solidify his role as an anti-equality extremist,” Peters said. “Based on his unfounded and incorrect statements about the role of the courts, he evidently does not value the rule of law and the role the courts play in protecting the rights and liberties guaranteed in the Constitution for all Americans, including LGBT people.”
James Esseks, head of the LGBT project for the American Civil Liberties Union, said all Americans must follow court decisions under the system of U.S. government.
“The courts help us all live up to the promises we’ve made to ourselves in the constitution – that government will treat each of us equally and that certain rights are fundamental and available to everyone,” Esseks said. “We’ve all disagreed with Supreme Court rulings at one time or another, but we all have to follow them anyway. That’s what living under the rule of law means.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, didn’t defend Huckabee when asked to respond to the fellow Republican’s comments.
“It’s quite a convoluted understanding of the duty of the Supreme Court,” Angelo said. “Gov. Huckabee completely disregards one of the key purposes of the court: To safeguard liberty by recognizing unconstitutional laws and overturning them.”