Newt Gingrich is calling on the Republican Party to recognize the "practical reality" of same-sex marriage and the "very real and complex human circumstances" surrounding the issue. Though Gingrich emphasized that he still believes "as a matter of faith" that marriage is between a man and a woman, these latest comments are at odds with what he has said in the past and with views expressed this week in conservative media circles.
In an appearance on Fox News' On the Record, Gingrich called the issues surrounding same-sex marriage "a very complicated human problem," saying "Republicans need to take a deep breath and understand, we need to deal with the human side of this equation."
As an example, he cited the hypothetical case of a same-sex couple legally married in Maryland -- the state's same-sex marriage law was upheld in a referendum during the November elections -- that goes on a trip and is faced with a medical emergency. Gingrich asked: "What's their status if they want to go to the local hospital?"
Gingrich's comments come on the heels of Rush Limbaugh's outrageous claim that growing acceptance of marriage equality is leading to acceptance of pedophilia. On Monday, Limbaugh stated on his radio show:
There is a movement on to normalize pedophilia, and I guarantee you your reaction to that is probably much the same as your reaction when you first heard about gay marriage. What has happened to gay marriage? It's become normal -- and in fact, with certain people in certain demographics it's the most important issue in terms of who they vote for. So don't pooh-pooh. There's a movement to normalize pedophilia. Don't pooh-pooh it. The people behind it are serious, and you know the left as well as I do. They glom onto something and they don't let go.
On Fox, Gingrich continued to express support for the Defense of Marriage Act -- the 1996 federal law which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, thus denying same-sex couples federal benefits, hospital visitation rights, and other legal benefits that come from marriage -- saying he would vote in favor of the law if presented with the choice.
He added however that "as a matter of practical reality, we have to deal -- we, conservatives, have to deal with the objective fact that nine states have adopted a rule which is now going to make life more complicated."
Gingrich expressed similar sentiments in December when he suggested that the Republican Party needs to accept the "reality" of same-sex marriage. He went on to say that he "didn't think [acceptance of same sex marriage] was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act," but that "it didn't seem at the time to be as big a wave of change as we are now seeing."
He also stated 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."
His support of DOMA notwithstanding, Gingrich's comments represent a marked reversal from earlier comments he has made on the issue. When the Obama administration announced in February 2011 that it would no longer defend Section Three of DOMA, which defines marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman," because it found it unconstitutional, the former House speaker entertained the idea of impeaching President Obama over the decision.
In January 2012, he likened same-sex marriage to paganism, telling religious leaders:
GINGRICH: It's pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it's a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.