Is gay marriage a federal or states’-rights issue? Colin Powell, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney disagree on the issue.
Colin Powell made news yesterday by publicly backing gay marriage, an ostensible endorsement of President Obama’s new-found conversion, but he parted with Obama on the president’s view that marriage should be left to the states. On that issue, Powell occupies a space in between Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Powell voiced state/federal agnosticism in his interview Wednesday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, saying he’d be comfortable with gay marriage legalized by either level of government.
“I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married under the laws of their state or the laws of the country, however that turns out, and it seems to be the laws of the state,” Powell told Blitzer.
Obama prefers to leave gay marriage to the states, the president told ABC’s Robin Roberts when he backed gay marriage publicly for the first time. “I think it is a mistake to try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue,” Obama said, when asked if he could take action as president to ensure gay marriage’s legality nationwide.
Romney sees gay marriage as a federal issue, as evidenced by his support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as heterosexual and for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Romney signed a National Organization for Marriage pledge expressing those stances.
The state/federal distinction could be the next big topic of discussion in the marriage debate. Gay-rights activists, who lauded the president after his ABC interview, have said gay marriage is a civil-rights issue and called on Obama to do away with DOMA upon taking office.
On the federal front, Obama has instructed his Justice Dept. to stop defending the DOMA in federal court, a move widely criticized by Republicans and opponents of legal gay marriage.