Texas Gov. Rick Perry has yet to decide whether he will seek next year’s GOP Republican presidential nomination, but already he’s had his first contretemps. (Which, translated from the French into campaign-speak, means political headache.)
Perry is a big believer in state sovereignty—some may recall him winking at the notion of Texas seceding, before backing off—as well as the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. That’s the one that limits the powers of the federal government.
So it was not altogether surprising that Perry, weighing his future, gave a speech last week that included a strong pitch for state’s rights.
“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex,” Perry told a gathering of several hundred GOP donors at an Aspen Institute forum. “And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business and that’s fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”
Perry’s comments in Colorado immediately ricocheted through social-conservative circles. Some were not pleased, among them presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.
“I am not, as some in this race have said, OK with New York doing what they’re doing,” the former Pennsylvania senator said, campaigning this week in Iowa. “What New York did was wrong. I will oppose it and I will go to New York, if necessary, and help overturn it.”
Now, it seems, Perry has had second thoughts. In a radio interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, the Texas governor amended his remarks.
"I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ “ Perry said, “and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously, gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.”
A spokesman said Perry’s comments, released Thursday, were not a retreat or revision. “He’s been very consistent: Marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Mark Miner. “As governor of Texas, he has a strong record of defending traditional marriage.”
Further, Miner said, there is nothing inconsistent in Perry’s support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage at the same time he insists on letting states go their own way. An amendment would require support from three-fourths of the states, Miner said, thus allowing them to weigh in.
Perry, serving his third term as governor, is believed to be weeks away from announcing his decision on running for president.