By mid-day yesterday, hours after the Supreme Court had tacitly expanded marriage equality to several states, only one Republican U.S. senator, Utah’s Mike Lee, had issued a press statement. In the midst of an extraordinary societal shift on civil rights, Republicans - from Capitol Hill to the RNC – had effectively decided to take a pass on saying much of anything.
But it wasn’t long after that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) decided to weigh in. The fact that the far-right senator wasn’t pleased didn’t come as a surprise, but take a moment to soak in the Texas Republican’s incredible reasoning.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible,” said Sen. Cruz. “By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing.“This is judicial activism at its worst.”
It wasn’t too long ago that “judicial activism” was a phrase that actually meant something. Folks on the left and right who were outraged when judges made up new legal rationales to justify controversial decisions could credibly use the words as part of a reasonable complaint.
In time, the phrase became diluted. Soon, every judge a partisan disagreed with became a “judicial activist,” whether the label made sense or not. Every ruling a partisan objected to became an example of “judicial activism,” even if it wasn’t.
But leave it to Ted Cruz to render the phrase utterly meaningless in a new and creative way: the Supreme Court, the senator now believes, can be guilty of “judicial activism” even when the justices literally haven’t done anything. Yesterday’s news was a breakthrough moment for equal-marriage rights, but in a practical sense, all the justices did was announce they wouldn’t hear some cases – something they do all the time, on all kinds of issues and areas of the law.
But that’s not all: Cruz then told everyone what he intends to do about this outrage.
The senator’s statement went on to say: “Marriage is a question for the States. That is why I have introduced legislation, S. 2024, to protect the authority of state legislatures to define marriage. And that is why, when Congress returns to session, I will be introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.”
And what is S. 2024? It’s a proposal to empower states to discriminate against same-sex couples and ignore marriages performed in other states. Luke Brinker explained, “Gay rights advocates have dubbed the bill the ‘You’re Not Married Anymore’ Bill,’ noting that it would sanction a patchwork of state laws pertaining to same-sex marriage and jeopardize couples’ rights as they travel from state to state.”
Cruz, of course, is also reportedly eyeing a national campaign in the near future. The right-wing Texan may very well be taking early steps to lock up the anti-gay vote now.