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Ken Cuccinelli: Same-Sex Marriage Decision 'Ripped From The States'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I want to turned now to Ken Cuccinelli. He's the former attorney general of Virginia, also a Republican candidate for governor of Virginia in 2013. Mr. Cuccinelli, welcome to the program.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Good morning.

GREENE: You have been arguing against legalized same-sex marriage for some time. I wonder how you react to this decision this morning.

CUCCINELLI: Well, obviously, I was a severely disappointed, perhaps most so because this was another issue that's literally been ripped from the states. And a lot of your listeners may not know, but the Supreme Court addressed this exact issue 40 years ago in the same court that ruled 7-2 for Roe v. Wade voted 9-0 that this question of traditional marriage or same-sex marriage was the exclusive province of the states. And, you know, some states have been deciding in one direction over the years and some states have been deciding in another. And we do our country no good by ripping these sorts of decisions that really should be done through the democratic process out of the people's hands and having them decided by a 5-4 super-legislature, which is how the court acted today. This isn't good for our country and obviously, I'm not happy with the outcome either.

GREENE: And I presume - we should say that Justice Antonin Scalia, who in his dissenting opinion said that he wanted to write separately to call attention to this court's threat to American democracy. Do you feel like that's what he was talking about?

CUCCINELLI: Presumably. Now, it is an 103-page opinion, and I haven't read it all yet.

GREENE: Neither have I, we should say.

CUCCINELLI: Yeah, OK, let's be fair about that and - but presumably so. And, you know, before today, the hope with Justice Kennedy, who has been a staunch defender of federalism, which means that the states retain their prerogatives within the constitutional structure. And so we have differences state to state. Here, they - he abandoned that long history of his own and literally gave same-sex marriage the highest level of constitutional protection. And what that means as a practical matter going forward is now it will be used - this ruling will be used as a weapon. And you will see in the coming years where people are going to be decertified. Priests and pastors are going to have their licenses to marry people stripped away from them because they won't conduct same-sex marriages. You'll see assaults on doctors and psychologists and psychiatrists and nurses because of their views. It will go beyond just the CEO of Mozilla. Now the full power of government is going to be brought to bear to enforce this viewpoint. And it's interesting that Justice Kennedy noted in his majority opinion - oh, don't worry, you still have the right to express your religious view that same-sex marriage is a bad thing. Well, thanks very much. That sounds an awful lot like President Obama calling religious liberty the right to worship. That's one hour a week. The clear implication is that when you leave the parking lot of that church, it's no holds barred by the government against you.

GREENE: But can't - can't churches...

CUCCINELLI: And you will - and you will see that sort of applied tyranny using this case.

GREENE: I guess - I mean, religious leaders, churches are not, you know, covered by this decision. They can still make their own decisions about how to handle same-sex marriage. Is that right?

CUCCINELLI: No, that is not right. Again, back to Justice Kennedy's comment - they can express their viewpoint. They can express the tenets of their faith that may not be in accord with this decision, but they must act - you will see. I mean, pretty - for instance, I'm from Virginia. Priests and pastors have authority from the state when they conduct a marriage ceremony not only to be conducting it on behalf of their church, but that also is the formal granting of the marriage license by the state.

GREENE: Let...

CUCCINELLI: And that is going to be stripped away.

GREENE: Let me ask you if I can, Mr. Cuccinelli...

CUCCINELLI: Sure.

GREENE: The - some people, you know, are against same-sex marriage for personal reasons, for religious reasons. You know, we've...

CUCCINELLI: For a variety of reasons.

GREENE: For a variety of reasons. We've been speaking to you about the idea that this should be -you know, each state should get to make its own decision.

CUCCINELLI: Right.

GREENE: Where are you personally? I mean, is it just a sort of states' rights argument, or how do you feel about this issue personally?

CUCCINELLI: Well, I'm kind of an idealistic lawyer. So when you look at an issue like this, certainly, I lament the abandonment of legal principles in coming to this conclusion. But, you know, in Virginia, we decided by 57 to 43 back in 2006 that we were going to stick with traditional marriage. And I supported that, and I still support that. Obviously, that's been overturned here by the Supreme Court. But as you noted, there are a variety of reasons that people come to that same position. And just as there are a variety of reasons people support same-sex marriage - there is the equal rights position; there is the I think we should leave everybody alone position; there is the I don't think the government should be involved at all position - these are very different bases to come to the same conclusion. What the court did today was literally as sweeping as it could be with the case before it. And that's going to have very serious implications that have - particularly the people who want - were in the leave everybody alone or it doesn't affect me category are going to be very surprised at some of the consequences of this ruling today and not favorably.

GREENE: And let me just ask you, for people like yourself who have been fighting - as you put it - to protect traditional marriage and have been fighting for a state's right to decide this question, what's next? Where do you take the fight from here?

CUCCINELLI: I think there's going to be a significant revisiting of exactly that question because this - the sweeping nature of the ruling is beyond I think anybody's - most people's expectations. And even though I maybe said that I think most people expected a ruling in some way favorable toward same-sex marriage, I think the sweeping nature of Justice Kennedy's opinion is going to require a wholesale revisiting of where are we now? And that's going to - that's going to have some, you know, troublesome aspects to it. But for now, I think it's a major revisiting exercise for everybody. You know, this changes the landscape significantly.

GREENE: We've been speaking to Ken Cuccinelli, who's the former attorney general of Virginia, also a Republican candidate for governor in the 2013 gubernatorial campaign. He agrees with the dissenting opinion today in a case in which by 5 to 4, the justices decided that same-sex marriage should be legal across the United States. Mr. Cuccinelli, thanks so much for taking the time. We appreciate it.

CUCCINELLI: Good to join you.

GREENE: And let me bring in...

CUCCINELLI: Have a good day.

GREENE: You do the same, sir. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.