Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) grasp of constitutional law has long been a little fuzzy. In January, the Republican presidential candidate said Supreme Court rulings don’t set the law of the land because decisions need to be enshrined by lawmakers through “enabling legislation.”
The problem, of course, was that this was gibberish.
Huckabee’s argument was presented in anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, which arrived on Friday. Right on cue, the former governor made a similar argument to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you calling for civil disobedience?HUCKABEE: I don’t think a lot of pastors and Christian schools are going to have a choice. They either are going to follow God, their conscience and what they truly believe is what the scripture teaches them, or they will follow civil law. They will go the path of Dr. Martin Luther King, who in his brilliant essay the letters from a Birmingham jail reminded us, based on what St. Augustine said, that an unjust law is no law at all. And I do think that we’re going to see a lot of pastors who will have to make this tough decision.
He added moments later, “I’m not sure that every governor and every attorney general should just say, well, ‘It’s the law of the land,’ because there’s no enabling legislation.” When Stephanopoulos asked if he would enforce federal law if elected president, Huckabee said it would depend on Congress passing “enabling legislation.”
Just as a basic matter of how the American government works, what the GOP candidate is saying simply doesn’t make any sense.
There won’t be “enabling legislation.” The Supreme Court majority has ruled. There is now clarity as to the marriage rights Americans are entitled to. Those rights apply right now – it’s not as if Congress is rushing back into session to consider whether or not the Supreme Court’s ruling is actually going to be applied nationwide. Huckabee seems to be under the impression that our system requires lawmakers and the White House to somehow sign off on the decision in order for it take effect.
It’s unfortunate that someone running for president – a man who served as a governor for over a decade and who even hosted a public-affairs show on national television – is this confused about the American legal process.
Huckabee shouldn’t be in Iowa; he should be in a remedial Civics 101 class.
As for the broader point about Huckabee’s support civil disobedience, the Republican candidate envisions “pastors” who’ll have to decide whether to honor American law. That’s odd, too – religious leaders who want to perform marriage ceremonies will be able to do so; religious leaders who don’t want to perform marriage ceremonies won’t. That was true before Friday’s ruling and it’s still true now.
I’ve seen related rhetoric about pastors refusing to “honor” same-sex marriages, but in practical terms, I still have no idea what this means since no one’s seeking their stamp of approval.