Gay marriage ruling spotlights Democrat-Republican divide

SHARE Gay marriage ruling spotlights Democrat-Republican divide
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U.S. Sen Mark Kirk was one of only a handful of Republicans to cross party lines on the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling | (AP file photo/M. Spencer Green)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling legalizing gay marriage across the nation highlighted Friday the divides between Democrats and Republicans on the high court, among the 2016 presidential contenders and the delegation Illinois sends to Congress.

An exception is Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. The Sun-Times has learned that for the first time Kirk will participate Sunday in Chicago’s Pride Parade, an annual event for decades.

Kirk is up for re-election in 2016 and unlike the Republican White House rivals who need to run to the right to survive what will be a brutal primary, Kirk must pick spots to lean left to bank Democratic support he will need to win a second term.

The women who want to defeat Kirk, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and her Democratic primary rival, attorney Andrea Zopp, will also be in the parade.

President Barack Obama – who was for gay marriage when he ran for the Illinois Senate in 1996, against it when he sought higher office, only to “evolve” and support it in 2012 – learned about the ruling from senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

She called him while he was in the White House residence, writing the eulogy he delivered on Friday afternoon for Clementa Pinckney, the Charleston, South Carolina, minister and state senator gunned down with eight others in a racist attack.

Capping a historic week – on Thursday the Supreme Court sided with Obama on a key Obamacare provision – the president talked about marriage equality from the Rose Garden before departing for Charleston.

“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens,” he said. “And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

Justice Anthony Scalia threw his own thunderbolts in the dissent he wrote.

The four justices appointed by Democratic presidents — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, joined by Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee — were in the majority.

All four dissenters are GOP presidential appointees: Scalia, John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Scalia, dripping with disdain for the majority, wrote, “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

But there was more wrath from Scalia, who noted that as Yale and Harvard grads, his fellow justices were unrepresentative of most of the U.S.

“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation,” Scalia wrote.

On the 2016 front, the gay marriage ruling presents a minefield for Republican contenders, whose reactions ran from muted to hostile.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called for a constitutional amendment to define marriage; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reaffirmed he believes in “traditional” marriage, with variations of that from Sen. Marco Rubio. R-Fla., former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the most hostile, saying the ruling was “out-of-control unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.”

In Illinois, most of the Democrats the state sent to Congress were elated with the decision, while most of the Republicans in the delegations stayed on the sidelines.

“Overjoyed,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

“Finally, equal justice under the law,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, the vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., like his mentor, Sen. Kirk, needs to appeal to Democrats to keep his 10th Congressional District seat. Dold, who praised the Friday ruling, was earlier this year one of four House Republicans to sign a friend of the court brief in support of marriage equality.

The only Illinois Republican in Congress to come out strongly against the ruling was freshman Rep. Michael Bost, who scorned the work of “nine unelected justices in Washington, D.C.”

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