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Many GOP Candidates Not Commenting On Gay Marriage Wave

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Over the weekend, a federal court overturned a state ban on same-sex marriage in Alaska, and that brought the number of states where gay couples can marry to 30. The message from the Supreme Court seems to be federal court orders in favor of same-sex marriage should stand. And while that makes a clear majority of states pro-same-sex marriage, there still are some Americans who are very much opposed - for example, a great many conservative Christians.

We wondered where that leaves Republican candidates who want to appeal to those voters or who personally share their negative view of the trend. Karen Tumulty writes about politics for The Washington Post. Welcome to the program.

KAREN TUMULTY: Great to be here.

SIEGEL: How would you describe what Republican candidates who are against same-sex marriage are saying out about what appears to be a pro-legalization wave across most of the country?

TUMULTY: Well, I think, by and large, they are not talking about it. You have a few people, like Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas who just denounced the court's refusal to act last week. But I think among most Republican leaders, you are hearing no discussion at all of the subject.

SIEGEL: As you say, though, Sen. Cruz of Texas called this judicial activism at its worst. He's actually talking about whatever the opposite of active - passivism at the Supreme Court - just letting things happen as they're happening at the lower court level.

TUMULTY: Well, I think that his actual reference here is to the lower court judges who, in many cases, have overturned anti-gay marriage initiatives that have been passed by the voters in those states. You might recall that that was very much the trend a decade ago. In the 2004 presidential election, there were something like 17 states that voted against gay marriage in one election. And in many cases, those are the statutes and constitutional, you know, issues that the judges - the lower court and the state court judges are weighing in now.

SIEGEL: Given that the courts are weighing in, can a social conservative on this point propose anything short of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would survive those challenges?

TUMULTY: I think that even a lot of the activists say that their chances of actually passing an amendment to the Constitution are pretty slim, but there is a lot of talk right now about impeachment actions against these lower court and state judges.

SIEGEL: The ones who are striking down the laws?

TUMULTY: That's right. And there are also some places - for instance, in Iowa, where Ralph Reed, who head an outfit called the Faith and Freedom Coalition - it seeks the sort of mobilize evangelical voters. And he is saying that he does think that this is going to galvanize them in what is - in a state where there's a pretty tightly fought Senate race - that they are going to be featuring this issue in 350,00 voter guides and going into more than a thousand churches to get people motivated to vote.

SIEGEL: But what's your sense when Republican strategists look at the polls, and they look at who's in favor, who's against - do you think they see enduring issue for them here?

TUMULTY: They look at two things. One is the fact that more than a majority of Americans now tell pollsters that they support gay marriages and that the support for this is particularly strong among the young. You even hear from evangelical leaders that they look out in the pews of their own church is and realize that the young people in their churches are on the other side of them on this issue. And this is very different from, say, an issue like abortion, where often younger evangelical are the most ardently anti-abortion. In the case of gay marriage, they are very much moving to the side of favoring these unions.

SIEGEL: If Republicans don't want to talk about it, do Democrats want to talk about it? Or is - does nobody want to talk about it?

TUMULTY: Well, you might remember that as recently as the 2008 presidential election, most of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, including the person who is currently in the White House and Hillary Clinton, were opponents of same-sex marriage. They have moved on the issue, so, you know, the Democratic Party has seen its own sea change on this issue.

SIEGEL: Karen Tumulty, political correspondent for the The Washington Post, thank you very much for talking with us.

TUMULTY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.