For a man with presidential ambitions, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a strange habit of sounding a lot like one of the most bigoted, contemptible, despised politicians in all of American history. The trouble started last May, when Huckabee called for the impeachment of an Arkansas state judge who ruled in favor of marriage equality—echoing another Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, who famously resisted integration and called for the impeachment of any judge who enforced it.
Now Huckabee has taken a new tack in his quest to demean gay Americans. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Huckabee insisted that states can ignore any future Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional—and continue to enforce their own bans—because “one branch of government does not overrule the other two”:
One thing I am angry about … is this notion of judicial supremacy, where if the court makes a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say, “Well that’s settled, it’s the law of the land.” No, it’s not the law of the land.
What Huckabee is really disputing here is the validity of Cooper v. Aaron—and, in turn, the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Cooper arose in 1958 after the school board in Little Rock, Arkansas, refused to enact an integration plan as required by the court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Faubus, then governor of Arkansas, declared that his state wasn’t bound by Brown and could shrug off the ruling. The Supreme Court disagreed, unanimously ruling that, thanks to the supremacy clause, states (and state officials) are bound by the court’s interpretation of the federal Constitution.
Faubus, of course, disagreed. According to his constitutional interpretation, a “Supreme Court decision is not the law of the land.” Faubus is also reported to have informed white schoolchildren that “the Supreme Court is not the law of the land and [you don’t] have to obey it.”
Sound familiar? If so, that’s because this is almost exactly what Huckabee said about a hypothetical gay marriage ruling. This similarity is not particularly surprising: Conservatives tend to get quite gung-ho about nullification where the equal protection clause is involved. But it is a bit odd to see an allegedly savvy politician repeat, nearly verbatim, the words of one of America’s most vicious racists. Perhaps Huckabee looks to his gubernatorial predecessor as a role model; perhaps he’s just utterly clueless. Either way, I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense to adopt the philosophies of a segregationist when you’re championing a form of segregation yourself.
Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria ofOrange Is the New Black fame!—for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.