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Republicans bite their tongues following marriage breakthrough

A decade ago, Republicans saw marriage equality as a wedge issue. In 2014, GOP leaders can't even be bothered to make vague criticisms of court rulings.
A wedding cake with a male couple is seen at a same-sex marriage celebration, July 1 2013.
A wedding cake with a male couple is seen at a same-sex marriage celebration, July 1 2013.
The U.S. Supreme Court today made big news when it cleared the way for marriage equality in several states. Indeed, five states joined the marriage-equality club today, and with six more on the way, the number of states that treat same-sex couples equally is poised to reach 30.
And in response to the news, Republicans, longtime opponents of gay rights who pushed for an anti-gay constitutional amendment in the not-too-distant past, said ... very little. Kate Nocera reported this afternoon:

As of Monday afternoon, Sen. Mike Lee was the lone GOP member to issue a statement. His home state of Utah was one of the states where a marriage ban was overturned by an appeals court and the state is now moving forward with allowing same-sex couples to marry. Lee called the Supreme Court decision to not review the appeals "disappointing." Supreme Court decisions are often met with swift reaction from members on Capitol Hill, filling reporter's inboxes with statements of disappointment or support for whatever the justices have ruled. All the more when the decision impacts a hot-button social issue. The muted response from congressional Republicans is telling.

It is, indeed. News from the high court, especially on high-profile issues like this one, usually generates a flood of press releases. Today, Nocera found one GOP senator weighing in -- Mike Lee's home state of Utah was directly affected by this morning's developments -- and no one else. On the other side of Capitol Hill, I checked the websites for the House Speaker, House Majority Leader, House Majority Whip, and House Conference Chair, and combined, the four Republican leaders said a grand total of nothing.
The same goes for the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Campaign Committee, and the National Republicans Senatorial Committee, all of which published literally zero words on the subject.
In fairness, when Congress is out of session, members' offices tend to have less to say on most issues, which is true of both parties. But note that in Democratic circles, both the DNC and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office were eager to celebrate today's news from the Supreme Court.
A decade ago, Republicans saw marriage equality as a terrific wedge issue, to be exploited as often as possible. In 2014, GOP leaders can't even be bothered to make vague criticisms of court rulings they ostensibly don't like as same-sex marriage reaches 60% of the nation.
It's against this backdrop that Irin Carmon made a good catch following one of the Sunday shows.

If Republicans are so confident in their positions on abortion and contraception, why do they keep shying away from discussing them -- or changing the subject to something different altogether? Nowhere was this clearer than in a recent interview by the head of the Republican National Committee. On NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked RNC Chair Reince Priebus about his agenda, and then followed up with, "One of the things in here that you didn't mention, there's a lot of social issues. Why was that?" He added, "It seems like you're nervous about it. Are social issues working against you guys?"

Imagine that.
Asked specifically about Republican-imposed regulations closing most of Texas' abortion clinics, the chairman of the Republican National Committee replied, "Well, you obviously have to talk to someone in Texas," and then changed the subject.
Irin did some additional fact-checking on Priebus' answers yesterday, but the larger takeaway is hard to miss. Clearly, the "culture war" isn't over, at least as far as conservative policymakers are concerned, but GOP officials now see these hot-button social issues as an electoral risk in ways they didn't before.
No wonder Republicans don't want to talk about marriage today.