Mike Huckabee Threatens To Leave The GOP Over Gay Marriage; Don’t Believe Him

Mike Huckabee is threatening to leave the GOP if the party backs down on same-sex marriage. He's bluffing.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is threatening to leave the GOP if the party backs down on opposition to same-sex marriage:

Former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican also-ran Mike Huckabee has an ultimatum for his party: Push back on same-sex marriage or he’s gone. During the American Family Association’s Tuesday morning broadcast, Huckabee vented his frustration with the GOP’s mild response to the Supreme Court’s decision not to rule on same-sex marriage this term.
“If the the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing, Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue and while you’re at it, go ahead and say abortion doesn’t matter either,” he said. “At that point, you lose me. I’ll become an independent. I’ll start finding people that have guts to stand.”

Huckabee is certainly challenging Senator Ted Cruz for issuing the most extreme response to the court’s decision. Court news. As Brian Beutler at The New Republic argued, the “scariest reaction” wasn’t Cruz, who promised to introduce a constitutional amendment that would prevent federal courts or government from voiding state laws on marriage, but from Huckabee, who implied that states should just ignore the Supreme Court.

“It is shocking that many elected officials, attorneys, and judges think that a court ruling is the ‘final word.’ It most certainly is not,” Huckabee wrote in a statement on his website. ”It remains the court’s opinion. It is NOT the ‘law of the land’ as is often heralded. The courts can’t make law. They can interpret it and even rule that a law is unconstitutional, but they have no power to create it or enforce it.” During a Tuesday interview with Iowa talk show host Steve Deace, Huckabee went further and speculated about what would have happened if the legislative and executive branches hadn’t enforced the court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

The uniting theme of his remarks has been that conservatives shouldn’t accept defeat, the way Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has. They also shouldn’t keep quiet. Huckabee argued that a lot of people on the “left coast” and the “bubbles of New York and Washington” are convinced that if Republicans “don’t capitulate on the same-sex marriage issue … then we’re going to be losers.”  He insists the opposite is true, and if Republicans “continue in this direction, they guarantee they’re going to lose every election in the future.”

Huckabee isn’t the only one who is making threats like this in the wake of Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court to decline to hear appeals in same-sex marriage cases directly affecting five states, and indirectly affecting six others. In the immediate aftermath of that decision, leaders of several conservative groups that have been vocal in the same-sex marriage debate decried the court’s decision. Subsequently, other prominent groups representing social conservatives have warned potential candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016 that they shouldn’t stray from the GOP’s current opposition to marriage equality and support for so-called “traditional marriage.” On the other side of the coin, of course, there are Republican politicians such as Governors Scott Walker, Mike Pence, and Gary Herbert who have all basically accepted the Supreme Court’s determination that the Supreme Court’s denial of the appeals that they filed on behalf of their states means that the battle against marriage equality in their states is over. There’s also been quite an obvious bit of silence on this issue from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, other potential 2016 candidates such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and others. Finally, as I noted in the wake of Monday’s events, the Supreme Court’s decision to not take the cases has opened a door for the GOP that gives it a way out of a position on same-sex marriage that is increasingly unpopular with the American public as a whole and even with young voters who identify themselves as Republican.

Given all of that, it is perhaps understandable that Huckabee and other social conservatives would be upset at a Republican Party that seems to be strangely silent during what has arguably been the most significant week of legal developments for same-sex marriage since the decision in U.S. v. Windsor  was handed down in June 2013. We are, after all, reaching a point where the debate over the issue itself will be largely irrelevant, if we haven’t reached that point already. For example, it’s been more than two years now since any state has passed a law banning same-sex marriage and it seems unlikely that any such ban would pass muster anywhere in the country where it isn’t already on the books today. Since that point, and accelerated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, the ultimate outcome of the debate over same-sex marriage has become more and more apparent. Legally and legislatively, support for same-sex marriage seems to be unstoppable, and while there may be some bumps along the way depending on what the Sixth and Fifth Circuits do with the cases before them, there seems to be very little question that same-sex marriage will ultimately be recognized nationwide. In the face of that, it’s no surprise that the national Republican Party is seeking to find a way to back away from the way it has approached the issue in the past and, for the moment at least, silence in the face of the events of this week is an entirely rational response for a party that realizes that there’s more to its future than the social conservatives.

All of this being said, Huckabee’s rant, as well as the comments of others on the right who have made similar threats to leave the GOP over this issue or others, should be dismissed as nonsense. Much like the people who said in the wake of George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 that they would leave the country, or Sarah Palin’s talk about leaving the GOP and forming a third party that would do nothing but guarantee future Democratic victories, this is nothing more than whining and foot-stomping combined with a large dose of fiery rhetoric designed to stir up the base going forward. Regardless of what happens with the same-sex marriage debate between now and 2016, neither Mike Huckabee nor any other social conservative is going anywhere, in no small part because there’s no place for them to go. The Constitution Party is a small third party that would seem to line up with their values, but moving to that kind of a party would make them largely irrelevant. Huckabee and those like him know this, which is why they aren’t going anywhere. Instead, one should take rhetoric like this as a sign that the social conservatives intend to keep pressing the battle inside the GOP, even if it goes to the extent of openly campaigning against Republicans running for office. This may also be an effort by Huckabee to set up a run for the Presidency in 2016, either for himself or for some other socially conservative standard bearer like Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz, in which case it all just means that the battle that many Republicans are starting to mount against the social conservatives in their party is only just beginning.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mario says:

    I don’t even think the Constitution Party would line up with folks like Huckabee…the party is too fiscally conservative for him.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    There is no gay marriage issue. It’s over. Just like there’s no interracial marriage issue. But I imagine Huckabee will add to his bank account by fleecing some more goobers.

  3. Just Me says:

    I think the vast majority of republicans don’t care. And if he leaves it isn’t to join or create a viable party so who cares?

    This issue is pretty much over except for a few states. Even many formerly opposed republicans have accepted it and moved on. And the young voters even those who are conservative in other areas are in favor of SSM.

  4. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    There is no gay marriage issue. It’s over.

    To those with even a semi-realistic view of the world, this is true.

    But for a lot of people, it’s like this…

  5. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: I have studied, researched, and thought about this issue at length. For those who are opposed, this is something that will not affect you. No one, including the government, is going to force this on people. It will not affect the family structure. Divorce, abuse, infidelity and some other issues do. Gay couples have already been adopting. I researched that also. There is no credible evidence of any harm, and I looked at a number of respected, even conservative resources. No one, including the government, is going to tell churches what to do. That power will still reside at the church level, in their decision making making process, with exceptions in some denominations. I will not tell someone how to run their life, who they can date, marry, or what they do in their own home. I do not want anyone, including the government, telling me the same.
    Polygamy next ? Not necessarily. I know there was some court decision out in Utah or somewhere that people said could open the door. But there has been nothing else said about it. Polygamist groups are powerful, have money, and are secretive. The last thing they want is the government involved through court cases.
    No one has anything to fear. That is my conclusion.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares what the Republicans position on homosexual marriage is or who will leave the party because of it? If a party has no influence on policy or governance is it still relevant? If a party has no chance to ever put their nominee into the White House again, does anything they do matter?

    Of course, what is really interesting is conservative are not sharp enough to think about what will become the next target for organized homosexuals. Will they go after the tax exempt status of church or will they go for reparations for not being able to marry in the past?

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    I’m sure there are many Republican power brokers saying don’t let the door hit you in the ass. The Socons like the Huckabee and Santorum are a dinosaur sized yoke around the neck of the Republican party.

  8. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Mikey: Heh, “A really futile and stupid gesture…And we’re just the guys to do it.”

  9. Mikey says:

    @Mr. Prosser: Pretty much fits the subject of this post to a T, I think.

  10. CSK says:

    He’s trying to one-up Ted Cruz.

  11. Tony W says:

    Until we start killing non-virgin brides, it will be clear that Leviticus trumps Deuteronomy among the faithful.

  12. beth says:

    @superdestroyer: Yeah when my Catholic priest refused to perform my marriage because my husband was a) not Catholic and b) divorced, I ran right out and sued for reparations just like thousands of others did…oh wait, that never happened.

  13. beth says:

    @Tyrell: Bravo to you! Sometimes you surprise me.

  14. Grewgills says:

    I hope he does and takes a lot of other crazies with him. It would be nice to have a sane opposition party.

  15. Via says:

    I was a big Huckabee fan until last weekend – when he had Melissa Etheridge on his tv show. And ten I read the headline a few days later that he’s threatening to leave the GOP if they don’t speak out against the gay marriage issue. My mouth dropped – I thought, well, which is it, Mr. Huckabee, are you for gay marriage or against it. The Bible tells us that we cannot sit at the same table with God and satan, both.

  16. mtnrunner2 says:

    If any Bible-thumpers want to leave the GOP, it’s fine by me. America is not about forcing religion on others.

  17. DrDaveT says:


    He’s trying to one-up Ted Cruz.

    As I used to say to my math students, “I think you dropped a sign in there somewhere.” Up is not the direction in which he surpasses Cruz on this…

  18. argon says:

    Good to see Huckabee without his mask. That should serve as a reminder about GOP candidates that try to appear ‘reasonable’ or mainstream: There simply aren’t any ‘mainstream’ candidates for national offices. The clown car has killed them off.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    FOX will welcome a certain amount of controversy and drama. They won’t pay Huckabee to attack the R party.

  20. Just 'nutha says:

    @beth: I do have to note that he doesn’t have a Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell article for us to read on this issue, though.

    I wonder why? Hmmmm…………..

    In any event, congratulations on being able to weigh this matter out Tyrell. Some of the stuff that I see in the international press on the issue makes me wonder if churches will be able to stay out of the cross hairs, but I hope so.

  21. Just 'nutha says:

    @Via: Yeah, Melissa Ethridge as a guest does have a kind of a gob smacked quality to it. Sorta like a loooong time ago when Pat Robertson welcomed Maria Muldaur onto the 700 Club to sing “Midnight at the Oasis.” Doesn’t get too much more cognitively dissonant than that.

  22. superdestroyer says:


    You could still have a civil ceremony and quality for spousal social security benefits, married couple tax rates, marriage estate benefits, family insurance.

    It is only a matter of time until homosexuals start suing for back benefits. But maybe their hatred of many protestant denominations will cause them to go after the tax exempt status of some churches first. Just because the bully got what they wanted this time does not mean they are going to stop.

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Let him. Nothing makes Dems happier than internecine warfare within the GOP.

  24. ernieyeball says:

    @Via: I was a big Huckabee fan until last weekend…

    So you were OK with Huckleberry’s wish that American Citizens be forced at gunpoint to listen to David Barton?

    HUCKABEE: I don’t know anyone in America who is a more effective communicator [than David Barton.] I just wish that every single young person in America would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we really are as a nation. I almost wish that there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced — at gun point no less — to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.

  25. ernieyeball says:

    @superdestroyer:..Just because the bully got what they wanted this time does not mean they are going to stop.

    So who’s the bully here? Folks that want to get married because they are in love? Or someone called superdestroyer who wants to deny citizens that legal status based on blatant homophobia?

  26. wr says:

    @Via: “The Bible tells us that we cannot sit at the same table with God and satan, both.”

    Which one is Melissa Etheridge?

  27. al-Ameda says:

    Speaking as a Democrat, I hope that Huckabee and the Republican Party continue to have internal division and internecine skirmishes over gay marriage and a host other freedom and responsibility related issues (like a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive heath decisions.)

    As a practical matter I believe that about 50% of the GOP base philosophically opposes gay marriage, however many of those people probably wish it would go away so that they could hammer Democrats on more serious issues – such as Benghazi, Fast & Furious, over fifty consecutive months of economic and jobs growth, etc.

  28. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The last poll that I saw (from Pew) had it at 61% of Republicans under 30 supporting SSM, and 43% of those ages 30 to 49.

    The dynamics on this only go in one direction, and the GOP has some pretty smart political consultants. They know this is an electric fence issue at this point, so outside of the true crazies like Huckabee (and the grifters like Cruz), you should probably expect the majority of GOP candidates to do their level best to avoid this topic altogether.

    The primaries may force them to acknowledge it in 2016, but that’s two years away. We may find that it’s a dead issue by then.

    But hey, if they want to have a civil war over a battle that they lost a long time ago, more power to them.

  29. al-Ameda says:


    The last poll that I saw (from Pew) had it at 61% of Republicans under 30 supporting SSM, and 43% of those ages 30 to 49.

    Thanks for those polling numbers. They are not surprising to me at all.

    Both my daughters are in the 30-and-under demographic, both have gay friends and each knows straight kids who grew up with gay parents, and they support gay rights and equal protection under the law for gay marriage. Neither of my daughters obsess over these issues, to them is it a matter of fact, a very simple matter of supporting equal rights for gay people.

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @al-Ameda: That’s the thing that I find most heartening about this issue. I like to consider myself to be pretty enlightened on social issues like this, but it was really demonstrated to me recently how far behind the times I may be on this one.

    For me, this has been one of those defining civil rights issues of this generation. Fight fight fight – overturn the evil bans, etc.

    For my kids, it’s literally no big deal. It’s not that they like or hate gay folk – it’s that to them this is literally a non-issue. They have difficulty understanding why there is even an argument about it to begin with. From their perspective, it literally doesn’t, and shouldn’t, exist. They see people. Just people, nothing more.

    Realizing that made me feel pretty good about the future …