Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has indicated he now backs a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country — marking a change from his previously stated position that the issue should be left to the states.
The current front-runner in the race to win the GOP presidential nomination said he supports federal action to deny marriage rights to gay couples in an interview published Sunday with the conservative Christian Broadcasting Network.
Asked by political reporter David Brody if he backs a U.S. constitutional amendment against marriage equality, Cain said backs federal action because of efforts to undo the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 anti-gay law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The Obama administration has stopped defending the statute against litigation in court.
“I think marriage should be protected at the federal level also,” Cain said. “I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and that could cause an unraveling.”
Cain continued, “So we do need some protection at the federal level because of that and so, yes, I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”
In the same interview, Cain said he backs a U.S. constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion rights constitutionally protected throughout the country. He said he would sign the amendment, although constitutional amendments don’t go to the president, but to the states for ratification.
Cain made the comments as he continues to enjoy strong support in national polls and polls in Iowa, the first state that will hold a caucus or primary in the election season. According to a University of Iowa poll published last week of likely caucus-goers, Cain was the choice of 37 percent of respondents. Coming in second was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was favored by 27 percent of responders.
The pizza magnate’s remarks on marriage signify a change in the position that he held as recently as last week when he said he wouldn’t seek a Federal Marriage Amendment and believes the issue should be left to the states.
During an appearance last week on the NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cain said,“I wouldn’t seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage, but I am pro-traditional marriage.”
Asked by host David Gregory whether states should decide the issue for themselves, Cain replied, “They would make up their own minds, yes.”
But Cain’s new position is on par with the position he held in 2004 when he was running to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Cain issued a statement condemning the decision and calling for a Federal Marriage Amendment.
“The courts have failed the American people,” Cain said at the time. “Congress needs to enact a constitutional amendment to protect the sacred institution of marriage.”
Cain continued, “Liberal-minded judges have opened a floodgate of judicial tyranny that will chip away at the core values of this country until nothing sacred is left! It started with not allowing prayer in schools, not being able to display the Ten Commandments, attempting to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and now making same-sex marriages legal.”
The change in positions for Cain over recent years had made him the brunt of attacks from both LGBT advocates and as well as Republican presidential candidates seeking to oust him from his position as GOP front-runner.
Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said Cain “flip-flops more than the pizzas he used to cook” and said his remarks demonstrate a misunderstanding of the legislative process.
“In less than ten years, he’s had three positions on this issue,” Sainz said. “It’s hard to believe which Herman Cain is speaking. With respect to his answer to this question, Cain continues to confuse the role of the president in this process. The president would have no role in a constitutional amendment to ban marriage; it would be up to Congress and the states.”
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who represents a district in Minnesota in the U.S. House, also attacked Cain on FOX News Sunday for being inconsistent.
“You can’t have all of these flip-flops in our nominee, one after another, and it’s making the voters’ heads spin,” Bachmann said. “I think it’s giving people pause, and they’re asking real questions about, what does he believe, truly, and how would he govern as president of the United States And that’s non-negotiable.”
Cain’s most recent remarks raises questions because he never explicitly mentions the Federal Marriage Amendment, but instead makes vague comments about federal action. Cain said he backs “legislation” to address the issue, which is different from an amendment. The video in which Cain makes the remarks is also apparently edited during the portion that he makes the comments.
The Cain campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to clarify the candidate’s position.
Chris Barron, board chair of GOProud, said the kind of federal action that Cain is seeking with regard to marriage isn’t clear in his remarks during the interview.
“Honestly it’s not clear from his response,” Barron said. “He is indicating he is for some additional federal approach but unclear what.”