House Republicans continue to shell out taxpayer money to defend the Defense of Marriage Act — they hired Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the law in the Supreme Court today. But as NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports, the law’s defenders are oddly reluctant to discuss their position in public:
Those defending DOMA have been strangely unwilling to make their arguments outside of the court. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, declined to be interviewed for this article, as did Clement and leading House members who voted for the law. Even Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who filed a friend of the court brief supporting DOMA, was unavailable for an interview. The primary sponsor of the bill, former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., now retired, has changed his mind and now opposes the law.
According to the Twitters, Clement didn’t speak to reporters after the arguments today.
The remarkable thing about all this is that Republicans know they have a problem on their hands when it comes to the rapid evolution on marriage equality and their party’s failure to keep up with it, yet they appear to be constrained from doing anything about it. As I noted here yesterday, polls are showing a generational divide among Republicans over this issue; while majorities of Republicans overall continue to oppose gay marriage, pluralities or even majorities of young Republicans now support it. Kevin Drum comments on this problem:
Republican leaders are painfully aware of this, I’m sure. They know they’re losing the gay marriage battle, even among their own partisans. The only question is how to make a passably graceful U-turn without pissing off their base of angry old tea partiers too badly. It’s going to be a challenge.
We know this is true, because even the Republican National Committee autopsy acknowledges it, noting: “Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, this issue is a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be.”
Of course, the autopsy does not recommend a substantive shift in favor of gay marriage, and the party continues to adhere to its platform’s opposition to it. For now, at least, the GOP’s strategy for dealing with the problem appears to be to acknowledge the cultural shift that’s underway — so as not to appear completely out of touch with it — and to create the appearance of evolution on the issue, without actually changing positions on it. Indeed, for all the talk about how Senator Rob Portman’s shift on gay marriage was supposed to represent a pivotal moment for the GOP, he remains the only Republican in the United States Senate to come out for marriage equality.