Rick Perry’s Gay Marriage D’oh!

After Rick Perry told a meeting of governors that it was “fine with me” that New York had passed its gay marriage law, the religious right got nervous.

As much as Perry can’t get enough of the 10th Amendment, and sometimes even loves a little secession talk, he apparently had a brain fart about those special circumstances in which America will be hurtling ever faster towards Judgment Day unless the otherwise overreaching, tyrannical, freedom-crushing federal government suddenly starts telling the states how to govern themselves.

Keeping with the theme of his upcoming prayer rally—repentance—Perry got down on his knees to Tony Perkins to explain himself. Perkins, who just three days before Perry made his remarks to the Republican Governors’ Association had signed on as a co-chairman of The Response, summoned Perry to the radio studio to explain himself. 

First Perry had to explain that no way is gay marriage “fine with me:”

Let me just, I probably needed to add a few words after “that’s fine with me” its fine with me that the state is using their sovereign right to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me, my stance had not changed. I believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

Oops. Perkins needed to press him, because, after all, didn’t Governor Perry realize that the federal government had to step in here, against all 10th Amendment logic?

I think marriage and family policy is best dealt with at the state level. But the tenth amendment — and I am a strong supporter. I fought the federal government on a number of issues when they were trying to force us to do things [in Louisiana].

But when you look at what’s happening on marriage, the real fear is that states like New York will change the definition of marriage for Texas. At that point the states rights argument is lost.

That’s right. Because there’s a storied history of New York making Texas do crazy stuff. Perry groveled:

Right and that is the reason that the federal marriage amendment is being offered, it’s that small group of activist judges, and frankly a small handful, if you will, of states, and liberal special interests groups that intend on a redefinition of, if you will, marriage on the nation, for all of us, which I adamantly oppose.

You can practically hear the talking points being piped into his earpiece. Activist judges! Liberal special interests! He continued:

Indeed to not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas, and other states not to have marriage forced upon us by these activist judges and special interest groups.

I’ll attempt a translation: “Indeed not to pass the federal marriage amendment would mean that Texas might have to endure same-sex couples who are legally married in other states! Egad!”

Then Perkins, ever mindful that the would-be presidential aspirant with whom he has prayerfully bound himself is just not hitting all the right talking points, offered:

Governor, we are about out of time but I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think I hear what you are saying. The support given what’s happening across the nation, the fear of the courts, the administration’s failure to defend the defense of marriage act.

The only and thin line of protection for those states that have defined marriage, that have been historically been defined between a man and a woman. The support of a marriage amendment is a pro-state’s rights position, because it will defend the rights of states to define marriage as it has been.

To which Perry dutifully responded:

Yes sir, and I have long supported the appointment of judges who respect the constitution and the passage of a federal marriage amendment. That amendment defines marriage between one man and one woman, and it protects the states from being told otherwise.

Being told otherwise by (1) their voters, (2) their legislatures, or (3) supreme courts. But who would want to listen to them when the federal government can tell them otherwise on an issue that has never been in its purview?

Perry, apparently, has been comfortably ensconced in his New York-free Texas cocoon and hasn’t realized the enormity of this pressing federalism issue. Now that Perkins has set him straight, maybe, just maybe, he can continue to pray for the support of religious conservatives if he runs for president. That said, some of them have long memories and little tolerance for these little screw-ups that seem, oh, I dunno, a little bit gay. And, of course, Perry will need to repent to general election voters (if he makes it that far), those voters baffled by why he felt compelled to jump through such contortions of his own logic to justify discrimination.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email