Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks during the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord International Hotel and Conference Center on March 7, 2014 in National Harbor, Md.
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Huckabee signals social issues aren’t going away in 2016


Former Arkansas governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is urging states to resist the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on gay marriage – a sign that hot-button social issues will be part of the next election cycle, even if some Republicans wish they would disappear.

“I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say, ‘Well that’s settled. It’s the law of the land.’ No. It isn’t the law of the land.”
Mike Huckabee
Huckabee, a staunch social conservative and an ordained Southern Baptist minister, took issue with the “notion of judicial supremacy” as it relates to the Supreme Court, which said last week that it would rule on whether same-sex couples in the United States should have right to marry. The ruling is expected by late June.

“If the court makes a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say, ‘Well that’s settled. It’s the law of the land.’ No. It isn’t the law of the land,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.

Huckabee added, “Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law. They can interpret one and then the legislature has to create enabling legislation and the executive has to sign it and has to enforce it.” The nation’s highest court, however, is not creating new legislation but is deciding whether or not the Constitution gives states the right to ban gay couples from tying the knot. 

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Although the upcoming Supreme Court ruling may provide potential candidates some wiggle room to say “it’s out of our hands,” potential candidates like Huckabee could force Republican competitors to talk about the issue, even if they don’t want to. There’s still also a subset of Republican voters in early voting states that care about issues like gay marriage and abortion. And the Republican Party platform still defines marriage as the “union of one man and one woman.”

Huckabee’s remarks come as other likely 2016 hopefuls have indicated they want to shift focus to other issues, like immigration, and as polls suggest more Americans believe the government should not promote traditional values. Even former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – who made a name for himself for being an outspoken critic to same-sex marriage—has seemed disinterested in the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court.

“Whether the Supreme Court finds it constitutional or not or mandates it, or whatever, the vast, vast majorities of marriages in America are still going to be moms and dads having children,” he recently told msnbc. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was against gay marriage during his time in office, also seemed to shrug it off, lamenting to the Miami Herald that “it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess” before issuing a more conciliatory statement urging people to “respect the rule of law.”

Related: Rick Santorum’s 2016 message comes into focus

But Huckabee isn’t alone in wanting to keep the issue of gay marriage on the table. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – who also has expressed interest in a 2016 run – recently laid out 10 issues he wants the Republican-controlled Congress to tackle. Cruz said he wanted to “rein in judicial activism,” and that the “Senate should stop confirming activist judges who will impose their own preferences, such as striking down state marriage laws.”

UP, 1/4/15, 9:28 AM ET

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According to the latest average of polling data surrounding the still nascent Republican presidential nomination, compiled by Real Clear Politics, Bush is in the lead with 17%. He is followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with 11.2% support, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with 10%, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 8.6%. Trailing is Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, each with 8%.

Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz

Huckabee signals social issues aren’t going away in 2016