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The vast majority of Republicans are “cowards” for disappearing in the marriage debate as soon as the polls started showing more support for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and a leading traditional marriage defender says it is “ridiculous” and “stupid” for many in the GOP to declare the debate over following the Supreme Court’s actions this week.

On Monday, the Supreme Court stated it would not hear appeals from traditional marriage defenders in five states, meaning same-sex marriages could immediately begin in those states and set the stage for legalization in several others.

A decade ago, Republicans across the nation were very vocal in defense of traditional marriage and championed state constitutional amendments across the country. Led by President George W. Bush, the GOP even promoted the Federal Marriage Amendment to protect states against what Republicans considered activist judges. Many political observers credit the marriage issue for saving Bush’s 2004 re-election bid.

Voters in California voted for traditional marriage as late as 2008, but public opinion began to shift around that time, and a plurality of Americans now claim to be supporters of same-sex marriage. Vocal GOP defense of traditional marriage has waned over that same time.

Only two U.S. senators spoke out following Monday’s announcement, with both Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, saying the courts had effectively usurped the will of the people in many states. Cruz is also planning to introduce a constitutional amendment allowing states to define marriage for themselves. Besides Lee and Cruz, the only pro-traditional marriage Republicans to speak out were Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and GOP Govs. Bobby Jindal, R-La., and Mary Fallin, R-Okla.

Virtually all other Republicans are remaining silent or even distancing themselves from the issue.

Ed Gillespie was chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2004 and heartily endorsed the marriage amendment at the time. Now running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, one of the states impacted by Monday’s decision, Gillespie was asked about the issue in a debate held in the wake of the Supreme Court’s news.

“When I was chairman of the Republican National Committee, the platform called for a federal marriage amendment,” said Gillespie, according to a Politico report on the debate.

“As chairman of the RNC, I stood for the platform. But I’m talking now about my policies … [and] while I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, I don’t believe that it’s the role of the United States Senate to enact a federal marriage amendment,” he said.

While Gillespie said he doesn’t agree with how the courts have dealt with the issue, he suggested the debate is settled in Virginia.

“The court has ruled on this,” Gillespie said in the Politico report. “It is the law in Virginia today, and as I believe that a federal law is the proper approach, then of course I accept the decision of the Supreme Court not to take up this decision of the circuit court.”

Others on the right also see the court’s actions as the final salvo in this cultural battle and believe it’s time for conservatives to move along.

On Monday’s edition of “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, anchor Bret Baier asked, “Is this it?” Commentator and former anchor Brit Hume thinks it is.

“I think this it it, Bret,” said Hume. “I think that while the Supreme Court didn’t really take up the issue today, leaving intact these rulings against the bans, and given the public opinion where it stands, there’s just no political momentum really on the other side of the issue.”

Hume said he sees no way for traditional marriage supporters to forge a majority coalition, given the trends in both political parties.

“There is now a constituency in both parties that is for this,” he said. “You have, of course, may liberals who favor it. They constitute most of the Democratic Party, and you have the libertarian element of the Republican Party, which is an important part of the Republican Party.”

Mathew Staver is the chairman of Liberty Counsel and has represented the traditional marriage position in in many states around the country. He is appalled at the suggestion that Supreme Court has effectively ended the political debate over marriage.

“That’s ridiculous. In fact, you can’t have anything such as marriage or life over as a political issue. It’s [absolute] stupidity to have that kind of an opinion. You cannot just simply sit back and allow the Supreme Court or any justice or any judge to undermine something as basic and as fundamental and as necessary and as important as marriage,” said Staver, who is furious what he sees as the GOP wilting on this issue once it stopped being an easy political winner for the party.

“They’re cowards, and if Republicans don’t stand up for this, the party will become a non-issue. There will be a third party that will ultimately take its place,” he said. “That’s what happened with the issue of slavery, and there’s no party that’s immune from the situation.”

Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Mathew Staver:

While many Christians and other social conservatives look back to George W. Bush as a beacon of moral clarity on the issue, Staver said the Bush record is really one of great disappointment that triggered the GOP distancing itself from this issue.

“You know, George W. Bush mouthed his support of marriage, but when he got re-elected on the marriage and pro-family ticket back in 2004, Karl Rove and George W. Bush stood on the sideline,” he said. “That’s when they could have pushed forward with a constitutional marriage amendment, but they chose not to. They chose instead to go forward with Social Security reform, which was not part of his platform. Marriage and life were, and they decided to stand back.”

The Washington Post reported that even before Monday’s action by the Supreme Court, Republican strategists were advising their clients to steer clear of the marriage debate because they see it as a political loser for conservatives in light of several years of polling momentum in support of same-sex marriage.

Staver is unimpressed.

“Just because polls change, that doesn’t make the marriage issue change. You can’t change gravity because a number of people want to fly and get rid of gravity. You can’t change marriage and what it is (it’s ontologically the union of a man and a woman) simply because some people think that their vote is over or the winds of change have come,” said Staver, who noted that some in the GOP may want to put their fingers back in the wind to discover the polls are shifting back a bit.

“You’re starting to see the polls switch back the other way,” he said. “In fact, Pew Research recently showed that there has been a substantial decline in support for same-sex marriage. I think you’re going to continue to see that.”

Staver concluded, “Politicians who govern themselves by polls and popularity have no business leading anyone.”

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