These days, Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker -- the extremist Tea Party darling and likely 2016 presidential candidate -- is sounding a lot less cocky about the state's marriage discrimination amendment than he used to.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
[On] Friday, Gov. Scott Walker backed away from his previous support for the state ban on gay marriage passed in 2006, saying he didn't know if it violated the U.S. Constitution, would still be approved by voters today or would amount to a big change for the state's values and economy if overturned.
Making clear he wanted no part of this legal battle in an election year, the Republican governor said he was focused on other priorities. Though as governor Walker is one of the defendants in the lawsuit, he said gay marriage was an issue for Van Hollen and the federal judge, not him.
"Any federal judge has got to look at that law not only with respect to the state's constitution but what it means in terms of the U.S. Constitution, as well. Again, I'm not going to pretend to tell a federal judge in that regard what he or she should do about it," Walker said. "...I don't know what (allowing gay marriage) means. Voters don't talk to me about that. They talk to me about the economy. They talk to me about their kids' schools."
It was a rare moment of uncertainty for Walker, who thrives on taking firm stances on controversial questions.
This is a major change in tone for Walker, who previously expressed strong support for marriage discrimination in Wisconsin. He stopped defending the state's domestic partnership law, claiming that it violated the state's constitutional ban on anything "substantially similar" to same-gender marriage, and said last November that the ban provides a "healthy balance" to the state law that protects gay, lesbian, and bisexual (but not transgender) Wisconsinites from employment discrimination. In an appearance last year on Meet the Press, Walker also disingenuously claimed that the freedom-to-marry issue isn't all that important in Wisconsin.
But now that the political calculus on marriage equality in the Badger State has changed -- two recent polls show a strong majority of Wisconsinites opposing the amendment and favoring the freedom to marry -- Walker is downplaying his anti-LGBT views.
And he isn't the only one: J.B. Van Hollen, the state's far-right Republican attorney general, said in a recent interview that while he would continue to defend the ban against a federal court challenge from the ACLU, he expects to lose the case.
In fact, Van Hollen is so sure of his impending defeat that he took the highly unusual step Friday of preemptively asking U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to block her own ruling if she strikes down the ban. Via the Journal Sentinel:
Van Hollen's pre-emptive motion from earlier Friday seems to concede the state will likely lose the case, at least initially. Normally, lawyers wait until a judge rules against their client before asking for a stay... Friday's request is also the clearest sign yet that Van Hollen will appeal the decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago if the state loses."
Hey guys, here's an idea: since you know you're going to lose in federal court, you know that the anti-equality side will fail over the long term, and the majority of Cheeseheads reject your homophobic views, why don't you just take a cue from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and stop defending marriage discrimination? Not only would you be listening to the voices of the people you claim to represent, but you'd also be saving state taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary legal expenses.
Think about it.
Copies of Wisconsin's latest court filings in Wolf v. Walker are after the jump, via Equality Case Files. Also after the jump is video of Attorney General Van Hollen's remarks on marriage equality (beginning at 3:27).