It seems the gravitational pull of a Republican primary base is too strong to keep Liz Cheney from wavering on important issues.
As reported by the Daily Caller, a new release on the Cheney campaign site for her effort to unseat Mike Enzi and run for US Senate in Wyoming has clarified (read: changed) her position on gay marriage. Before announcing her campaign, Cheney had, like her father, expressed support for gay marriage, with the qualification that it should be decided by the states rather than “imposed” nationally. Fine. But now that she faces the rabid horde of the GOP base in a deep, deep red state in a primary election, she has changed that position. She now says:
“I am not pro-gay marriage. I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”
This is, of course, nonsense. Republicans are by definition opposed to direct democracy. Requiring direct ballot initiatives to decide controversial issues should be anathema to any Constitutional conservative. Certainly federalism allows the states to decide certain issues themselves, and state-wide popular referenda are one method of making such decisions. However, the freedom to marry is not a right that should be up for vote, by legislatures, judges, or even the people themselves, especially at the state level. Dozens of courts for more than a hundred years have agreed that marriage is a basic human right. Putting those rights on the ballot for approval or denial is a seedy product of mob rule, not a constitutional republic, whose primary role is to protect rights, not put them up for vote.
Cheney should also be careful about reflexively hewing to social conservative positions in her particular campaign. As a rural Western state, Wyoming has a long history of equality and may be slowing coming around to it on this issue specifically. State law defines marriage specifically as male-female, and the state legislature has rejected attempts to specifically legalize gay marriage, but they have also rejected attempts to specifically ban gay marriage or to ban the recognition of gay marriages from other states. Wyoming was also the first state to restore women’s right to vote in 1869 and elected one of the first women governors in 1924.
If Republicans are going to bravely support gay marriage, but then denounce it when they run for election, they’re going to quickly fall behind the curve and lose because of it. Or at least lose the support of their family members.