If you need an example of just how unmoored the right wing is from reality, look no further than the decision of antimarriage activists to petition the Supreme Court to stop marriage in California just two days after the Court gave it the go ahead. Yes, in what has to be a textbook case of denial, marriage opponents somehow thought that the same folks in robes who just lectured them on the dignity of gay and lesbian relationships would suddenly change their minds and agree with them. Of course, that was a short-lived belief. Justice Anthony Kennedy swatted the petition down without a second thought.
If the right wing wants to throw good money after bad, that’s their choice. But by pursuing such a quixotic (which is a nice way of saying hair-brained) appeal, they underscore one key fact: they can’t admit that they’ve lost. It’s not that they are in denial. In their more lucid moments, they know marriage equality is inevitable.
James Dobson, one of the patriarchs of the religious right, says that the Supreme Court ruling was devastating “even if eventually legally we are able to walk it back a bit.” That is hardly a trumpet call to battle victory. Instead it’s a monument to qualifiers. Any more hedging and the entire phrase would have to be in air quotes.
But the right wing can’t give up. In large part, it’s principle, as they genuinely believe marriage equality is immoral. But it’s hardly the only issue they consider immoral. In fact, there are two reasons why the right wing can’t give up.
The first is that the success the religious right has had with abortion rights. After the huge setback of Roe v. Wade, the right wing has managed to put major restrictions around a woman’s right to choose. In states with GOP majorities,legislatures have tightened the restrictions on abortion clinics, with the goal of driving as many as possible out of business. Those successes are a road map for effectively undoing a Supreme Court decision as much as possible. Don’t think they aren’t mulling that over when it comes to marriage equality.
The second reason is more complicated. A lot of the right wing’s identity is tied up in its antigay activities. Without them, what would the right be about? It has nothing to replace them with, at least at present. This is the problem facing the GOP: it has to change if it’s going to survive. But religious conservatives have no reason to change for political reasons. They will hang on to the bitter end. That’s why the right may recognize marriage equality is inevitable, but they will never stop fighting it every way they can.