December 20, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Gingrich: GOP must accept ‘reality’ of marriage equality
Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In the wake of a string of victories for same-sex marriage, former Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich has reportedly called on the Republican Party to accept the “reality” of marriage equality.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, the former U.S. House speaker maintained he still believes marriage is one man, one woman, but said he could accept a distinction between a ”marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state”:

On gay marriage, meanwhile, Gingrich argued that Republicans could no longer close their eyes to the course of public opinion. While he continued to profess a belief that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, he suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” — the latter being acceptable.

“I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with,” he said, noting that the debate’s dynamics had changed after state referenda began resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage. “It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”

The remarks come of the heels of victories for marriage equality on Election Day, when same-sex marriage was legalized at the ballot in Maine, Minnesota and Washington State and Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Gingrich also makes the remarks just weeks after the Supreme Court announced it’ll consider the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gingrich, who supported DOMA’s passage at the time he served as U.S. House speaker in 1996, reportedly said during the interview he didn’t imagine when the law was passed there would be the growth of the legalization of same-sex marriage seen now.

“I didn’t think that was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago, when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act,” he’s quoted as saying. “It didn’t seem at the time to be anything like as big a wave of change as we are now seeing.”

Gingrich’s remarks are a distinct turnaround from comments he made when running for president just last year. While campaigning in Iowa, Gingrich said he believes marriage equality is a “temporary aberration” that will dissipate over time. He also was among the GOP presidential candidates who signed a pledge with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage pledging to back a Federal Marriage Amendment, defend DOMA in court and establish a commission on religious liberty to investigate the harassment of opponents of same-sex marriage.

His opposition to same-sex marriage has often been ridiculed because he’s been married three times and has admitted to infidelity in earlier marriages.

Gingrich reportedly said he has personal stake in the debate, noting his lesbian half-sister, Candace Gingrich, who works at the Human Rights Campaign, as well as friends whom he said entered into same-sex marriages in Iowa.

The former speaker’s mention of friends in Iowa is particularly noteworthy because he reportedly contributed $150,000 from money he raised for his political group to a campaign to oust three Iowa justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, welcomed Gingrich’s remarks and said they reflect the views of Republicans “who are concerned about our party’s future.”

“As Gingrich noted, LGBT people are part of every family and every community, and the time has come for greater inclusion,” Cooper added. “It is particularly important and welcome to hear that Gingrich now understands the difference between church ceremonies and a civil marriage license, and that equality is no threat to religious freedom.”

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

4 Comments
  • When this guy says gay marriage is inevitable, you know it's inevitable. Good to see Republicans throwing up the white flag on this issue.

  • Maybe Candace got to her half-brother after all. I am normally very cynical, but I actually think that Gingrich is saying something that moves the chains forward in the GOP. They have a long way to go, but it is a start. @leliorisen

  • “The remarks come of the heels of victories for marriage equality on Election Day, when same-sex marriage was legalized at the ballot in Maine, Minnesota and Washington State and Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.”

    Of course, gay marriage wasn’t legalized in Minnesota, where voters did reject a state constitutional amendment barring marriage equality.

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