After the controversial Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling this past June, a few of the 2016 presidential candidates have made it known to the general public that they are opposed to the same-sex marriage law. It is worthy to note that the two Democratic candidates are in favor of the new marriage regulation. Although some of the Republican candidates have not been vocal about their negative feelings regarding the ruling, other conservative candidates have stated that they want to overturn the decision in favor of exclusive and traditional heterosexual marriage.
Candidates Dr. Ben Carson, Texas senator Ted Cruz, former candidate Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and candidate Rick Santorum agreed, via a written pledge, that they are in favor of issuing a new constitutional amendment to rescind the same-sex marriage law. All of the Republican candidates were sought out by The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to sign the pledge. The organization also gave its official endorsement to candidate Cruz.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the top contenders in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race, has a different viewpoint. Senator Rubio wishes to replace liberal Supreme Court justices in the hopes that the same-sex marriage ruling will eventually overturn via overwhelming conservative judicial votes. Similarly to fellow conservative presidential candidates, Senator Rubio said that the Obergefell ruling should have been based on each state’s decision rather than that of the federal court. On the television show Meet the Press, Senator Rubio stated that states have always determined the definition of marriage.
According to PolitiFact, Senator Rubio’s view is only part of the truth because his viewpoint ignores the Defense of Marriage Act, federal marriage laws and former decisions rendered by the Supreme Court. For example, the Loving versus Virginia ruling made it illegal for individual states to ban interracial marriage. Stanford University Constitutional law professor Jane Schacter stated that the state is not unrestricted in its rights to do anything it wants with regards to marriage laws. She also mentioned that the U.S. Constitution should be damned.
Senator Rubio’s remarks show that he has faith in the judicial process and in the U.S. President’s role. He mentioned that he does not think a specific case is necessarily a final law. He believes that the Supreme Court justices can change previous rulings. Consequently, he stated that he would appoint justices who interpret the United States Constitution according to traditional meanings as intended by its authors. However, Senator Rubio’s position may not support the legal doctrine known as stare decisis (stand by what is decided). Stare decisis doctrine typically demands that justices follow former rulings.
According to law Professor Kermit Roosevelt of the University of Pennsylvania, the question as to whether marriage equality is legal is no longer being asked by most U.S. Supreme Court critics. He believes that those who oppose same-sex marriage in lieu of traditional heterosexual marriage have lost the legal battle. Nevertheless, only time will reveal whether it is indeed possible to amend the Obergefell ruling and override it with a traditionally mandated interpretation of marriage law. Since interpretations are open to the opinions of the interpreters, Senator Rubio may voice the correct answer in his belief that conservative Supreme Court justices will one day pave the way toward reinstating traditional marriage rulings according to the U.S. Constitution.