With one state after another succumbing to same-sex marriage orders coming down from federal judges, pro-family activists say there is one last bulwark that could stem the tide – Republican governors.
Over the past 16 years, 31 states have passed constitutional marriage amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
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But a handful of federal judges have declared these state marriage amendments unconstitutional, and states are rolling over when they should be standing firm, says Randy Thomasson, a veteran pro-family leader with Campaign for Children and Families/SaveCalifornia.com.
When it comes to control of state governors' mansions, Republicans have never been stronger. With the arrival of the new year, Republicans were sworn into office to "faithfully execute" the laws in 31 states.
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Problem is, none of these governors has been willing to invest considerable political capital to protect traditional marriage laws, says Thomasson, who also runs the website SaveCalifornia.com.
"I don't expect any defense of real marriage from Democrat governors, who are virtually locked into the delusion of homosexual 'marriages,'" he said. "But Republican governors who say they believe in man-woman marriage – well, that's an entirely different story with different expectations."
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Thomasson has put out a list of the 31 Republican governors for people to call and request action to stop same-sex marriage licenses from being issued. View the list here.
Thomasson isn't the only family-values advocate who has noticed the impotence of Republican governors in the face of federal court rulings that defy the will of voters in conservative states.
"Governors have been meekly capitulating to judicial tyranny, one after the other, and timidly abandoning their posts," writes Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis for the American Family Association, in a recent column titled "Time for governors to stand up to judicial tyranny."
Fischer points out that voters in Mississippi and Arkansas passed marriage amendments by stratospheric margins – 86 percent in Mississippi and 75 percent in Arkansas – but governors have put up mostly token resistance to hostile court orders. Some governors, like Rick Scott in Florida, have been even more disappointing to social conservatives.
Same-sex marriages became legal on Jan. 5 in Florida, and even the progressive Miami Herald seemed to take joy in chiding Republicans with the headline, "Republican leaders silent as gay marriages become legal in Florida."
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"Leaders of the Florida Republican Party that supported the state’s 2008 ban on gay marriage were mostly silent Monday as throngs cheered South Florida couples given the right to wed," the Herald reported last week.
"The silence from Florida Republican leaders was deafening," the Herald added, a clear reference to Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, with active federal court battles ongoing in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, among other states.
"The Constitution is utterly silent on the topic of homosexuality and marriage, which means, according to the Constitution the Founders gave us, this is an issue reserved exclusively to the states," Fischer writes. "Any ruling from any federal court that imposes domestic policy on a state is by its very nature unconstitutional, and no governor has any obligation to obey it."
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In fact, quite the opposite, according to Fischer.
"He must refuse to comply with it, for to comply would mean he must violate his own sacred oath of office," he wrote. "A governor’s oath is to defend the Constitution of both the federal government and his own state. Defending something by definition means protecting it when it is under attack, regardless of where that attack comes from – even if the attack comes from a federal judge, a federal court, or the Supreme Court itself."
Where are the pro-family lobbyists?
Thomasson put out an action alert urging Republican governors to use their executive powers to stop same-sex marriage and said he hopes other pro-family organizations will do the same.
Thomasson sent a letter out Jan. 7 to 25 pro-family organizations asking them to step up the pressure on Republican governors to use the powers granted to them by their state constitutions to defend marriage. Those powers include the ability to forbid county clerks from changing marriage forms or issuing licenses to same-sex couples, and even calling out the National Guard, Thomasson said.
"Pro-family governors know what they can do, but apparently don't want to do all they can do to protect marriage and the people's vote," Thomasson told WND. "And we're guessing pro-family organizations may not know what governors can do, so we're informing them and trust the principled ones will jump into action to lobby conservative governors very hard."
Thomasson said that while he knows of no other pro-family groups urging their members to call the governors, he said many homosexual activists have been busy urging calls to the governors.
When it comes to defending traditional marriage, many pro-family advocates have found there is no real difference between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat. Scott says he's in favor of traditional marriage but does nothing to defend it, other than offer nice-sounding rhetoric, Thomasson said.
The same thing could be said for Oklahoma, where Gov. Mary Fallon's state voted with 76 percent of the electorate in favor of traditional marriage.
Yet, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused on Oct. 6 to review a federal appeals court decision striking down Oklahoma's law, county clerks immediately began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
What did the conservative governor of Oklahoma do? Fallon issued a press release.
"She put out a strong statement in a press release, but what's a press release?" asks Pete LaBarbera of AmericansForTruth.com. "She has 76 percent of Oklahomans who voted to support traditional marriage and one guy is going to undo that? I think Fallon missed a huge opportunity in Oklahoma. She could have harnessed that huge point differential and done more than just put out a press release."
LaBarbera noted similar responses to court rulings by Republican governors in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
"In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker capitulated without protest to a court-imposed evisceration of the marriage amendment passed by 59 percent of Badger State voters in 2006 – part of his change of heart on the issue.
"In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder, after a court ruling overturning that state’s marriage amendment, said he had never taken a position on same-sex 'marriage.' Democrats quickly provided footage of a 2010 debate in which Snyder defended normal marriage.
"In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett refused to even appeal a federal court decision toppling the state’s 1996 defense-of-marriage law."
"Walker in Wisconsin was really weak," LaBarbera told WND. "Some have had really atrocious reactions, some have not reaction at all, and others are just not very strong."
Time is running out
For Thomasson, the issue is clear: Stand for traditional marriage now, or wave it goodbye forever.
He says governors should be confronted with some pivotal questions: "Are you going to uphold what your state Constitution says or abide by what a federal judge says? And are you going to go with what the court says on changing marriage forms or are you going to stick with your current marriage forms as defined by your statutes?"
Some state governors, such as Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, have indicated they will file further appeals to block the same-sex marriage rulings of federal judges. But Thomasson says this is a weak response.
"They're doing an appeal in Mississippi, but their attorney general there has said that these same-sex marriages will begin happening if their appeal to higher courts is not successful," Thomasson said. "The governor is supposed to be a strong Christian man, so what is he going to do? Is he really going to protect marriage? As governor, he's the head of the Mississippi National Guard. He can refuse to alter marriage certificates. He can threaten to sue county clerks for violating the state Constitution on man-woman marriage."
Progressives have not hesitated to play power politics when it comes to getting their agendas through, he said.
He cites an example from 1994 when the Democrat-controlled California Department of Education threaten to sue conservative school districts that refused to administer a controversial test that dumbed down academic standards and promoted social engineering.
And who can forget Massachusetts, he says, when, in 2004, then-Gov. Mitt Romney ordered justices of the peace and town clerks to conduct homosexual "weddings" and issue homosexual "marriage" licenses, or be fired from their posts.
"Liberals will use their executive powers to do what they believe in," Thomasson said. "Will pro-family governors use their powers to do what they believe in, not only what they believe in but what they have sworn to uphold and defend? Do we have to pull out the oath of office and read it to them? Do we have to pull out Black's Law Dictionary and read them the definitions of the words they promised, such as 'defend' the Constitution and 'faithfully execute' the state laws?"
Waiting for a hero
LaBarbera believes it would be politically popular for a governor to push the issue and defy the federal courts as having no authority over states' rights to regulate marriage.
"Standing up to these courts would, I think, be good politics on the right. I would love to see it happen," he told WND. "It's a difference between being a politician and being a statesman. I think if someone stood up to the homosexual lobby and the courts, they would achieve hero status. We keep waiting for someone and it, unfortunately, never happens. I mean, 76 percent of the people voting can be wiped out by a single federal court decision?"
Thomasson said there is a big difference between California and conservative states like Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, all of which have either lost traditional marriage or are one judge's decision away from losing it.
"It's worse than criminal, because criminals usually hurt one person at a time, but the governors, if they betray the people by their cowardice in the face of a constitutional crisis, then they hurt many people by being AWOL," he said. "The casualties will be the children. These Republican governors, by their own actions, are telling impressionable boys and girls 'you can aspire to have a same-sex marriage for yourselves.'"
"We have self-professing pro-family, conservative governors who are actually responsible for permitting homosexual marriages in their own states," Thomasson continued. "We've got to understand who the real authorities are, how the government is divided, and that we must hold governors to account now."
One former governor to watch
If family-values voters are being betrayed by so-called conservative governors, they're being sucker punched by one former governor who recently announced he is likely to run for president on the Republican ticket in 2016, said LaBarbera.
"Jeb Bush is trending pro-gay in his statements," LaBarbera told WND.
When Floridians, who passed a marriage amendment in 2008, saw same-sex "marriages" being performed last week, Bush, in an interview with the Miami Herald, urged "respect" for same-sex couples and said "we have to respect the rule of law."
That earned him high marks from the Blade, a Washington, D.C., gay newspaper, which published an article titled, "Is Jeb a kinder, more gay-friendly Bush?"
LaBarbera was not amused.
"Really? What rule of law? The judges can disrespect 62 percent of the voters in Florida?" LaBarbera said. "You just had that pass (in 2008), and it's stolen from you. And you have all these wimpy politicians who are just afraid of their own shadows to do anything. No wonder we're losing. Bush also said that Republicans are perceived as being 'too anti-gay.' They're not doing anything on this, so how could they be perceived as anti-gay?"
Thomasson said the clock is ticking on what social conservatives believe is the most important issue in America outside of abortion.
"These rulings started last winter, continued in the spring, it came unleashed in the summer and then here we are with some principled people at the end of 2014 and the start of 2015 saying, 'Hey, where are the conservative governors?'" he said. "It's beyond late in the game with this thing. We can't just have governors like Rick Scott who says, 'Vote for me. I'm for traditional marriage between a man and a woman,' and then he doesn't do anything to protect marriage between a man and a woman."