October 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Cain indicates support for Federal Marriage Amendment

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Herman Cain is a clown and needs to seriously consider joining the nearest Circus he can find. Not only is he out of touch with people..his flip-flop of ideas is certainly cause for concern. People need to wake up and see how nonsensical his comments are and burn him at the stake. On the other hand you think to yourself..Mmmm I hope he wins the republican nomination so President Obama can send him back to his Pizza shack, maybe his old employees will listen to his nonsence.

    • The only clowns I can see regarding gay marriage are the people supporting it. Marriage was designed for a man and a woman; nature itself teaches this. What is a clown? A person dressed up to cover who or what he or she really is to act in a ridiculous manner. So, I would say to you, the gay circus is waiting.

  • Herman Cain is a damn fool if he thinks that a federal constitutional amendment to bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying has a snowball’s chance in hell of passage. Constitutional amendments require two-thirds majorities in BOTH houses of Congress — and ratification by a three-fourths majority of the states — for passage.

    It’s been tried before — in 2005, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress — and it failed to come anywhere near the required two-thirds majority. What makes Cain — or anyone else — think that such an amendment has a prayer of getting two-thirds?

    Cain is an even bigger fool for calling for such an amendment, for he’s clearly forgotten, as an African-American, that there was an attempt a century ago by racist members of Congress, mostly Southerners, to pass a constitutional amendment to outlaw interracial marriages.

    That attempt — spurred by controversy over the interracial marriage of Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion, to Etta Duryea, a white woman — also failed to garner anywhere near the two-thirds majorities required for passage. but it DID prompt 18 states — most of them in the South — to ban such marriages at the state level — until the U.S. Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, unanimously declared those laws unconstitutional in a landmark ruling in 1967.

    I swear, there ought to be a constitutional amendment to require that candidates for public office have a thorough knowledge of American history, for Cain clearly does not.

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