If John McCain wanted an opportunity to make common cause with the Christian Right, he’s just been handed it: the California Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the state’s gay marriage ban. One of the Christian Right’s biggest grievances against McCain is his steadfast refusal to get behind a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. This is a moment when McCain can reverse that opposition and make a plausible case that circumstance, rather than raw political calculus, forced his hand.
It wouldn’t be the first time a Republican presidential candidate tried such a thing. President Bush used the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s 2003 legalization of gay marriage as an opportunity to announce his support for the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment, now known as the Marriage Protection Amendment.
The amendment has gone nowhere in the years since then. But supporting it and roughly a dozen similar state-level constitutional amendments became the rallying cry for Christian conservatives who played a huge role in Bush’s reelection. The GOP’s evangelical grassroots have been unwilling to play a similar role for McCain for a litany of reasons. Will McCain seize this moment to try to change all that, reverting more to a Karl Rove style get-out-the-base strategy, or will he stick to running a much more centrist campaign by hedging on support for a constitutional amendment? This is a moment of truth.