As the Supreme Court weighs two laws on same-sex marriage, Sen. Saxby Chambliss finds himself in an uncomfortable place where few politicians care to tread: In the crosshairs of Stephen Colbert.
After the high court’s oral arguments Tuesday on a 2008 California referendum that banned gay marriage, the political satirist used his “The Word” segment on Comedy Central’s hit late-night show “The Colbert Report” to skewer the Republican senator from Georgia.
Adopting his popular persona of a conservative news commentator, Colbert purported to defend Chambliss for the senator’s recent glib dismissal of same-sex marriage. He noted Chambliss’ response last week to the recent change of heart on the controversial issue by fellow Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
“ ‘I’m not gay, so I’m not going to marry one,’ ” Colbert accurately quoted Chambliss as having said.
He then launched into his pseudo-defense of Chambliss, a two-term senator who plans to step down next year. In mock indignation, Colbert declared, “Now, Saxby Chambliss isn’t going to marry you, ergo you don’t get to marry anyone.”
Kicking his schtick into the next gear, the comedian said: “This is the same reason I say we should eliminate Social Security – because I’m not old, and I never will be. And frankly, why should I care about women’s reproductive rights? I don’t have a vagina – I’ve checked. . . . Now all Saxby Chambliss and I are saying is, nothing is worth fighting for unless it’s happening to you.”
Portman, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, wrote a column March 15 about how his son’s 2011 disclosure that he was gay had led the senator to re-evaluate his previous opposition to gay marriage and to conclude that he now supports it.
“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married,” Portman wrote in The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch newspaper.
His aides said constituent response to the column, in which the senator wrote of having reconciled his Christian faith with his love for his son, had been positive roughly in proportion to polls that found 6 in 10 Americans now thought that gays and lesbians should be able to marry.
Portman became the first sitting Republican senator to back same-sex marriage. His heartfelt column led reporters to ask his GOP colleagues where they stand.
Chambliss didn’t respond Wednesday to requests for comment from McClatchy about Colbert’s caricature of him.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard legal arguments about California’s Proposition 8 initiative banning same-sex marriage. Justices on Wednesday weighed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which Congress passed by large majorities. It defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and limits spousal benefits from federal programs to opposite-sex partners.
Colbert is a Charleston, S.C., native whose sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in a special election against Republican former Gov. Mark Sanford. Colbert regularly delivers equal opportunity lampoons of the country’s most powerful politicians.
Shortly before the November presidential election, he said:
“Will we be, as the Republicans desire, a nation of wealthy, heavily armed white men, befouling the air and water in a ceaseless quest for profits, beholden to no laws but those of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Or shall we instead embrace the Democrats’ vision of a namby-pamby quasi-socialist republic with an all-homosexual army flamboyantly defending a citizenry suckling at the foul teat of government welfare?”