Jimmy Carter flip-flops on nationwide marriage equality

The 39th president devolves on the issue

Published October 27, 2014 1:23PM (EDT)

  (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Former President Jimmy Carter no longer believes that marriage equality should be legal nationwide.

Carter, who announced his support for marriage equality in 2012, told a Texas news station in an interview broadcast Sunday that he believes the issue should be left up to individual states.

"I'm kind of inclined to let the states decide individually. As you see, more and more states are deciding on gay marriage every year. If Texas doesn't want to have gay marriage, then I think that's a right for Texas people to decide," Carter said.

Carter added that he opposes having the government "tell a church to marry people if the church doesn't want to." Civil marriage equality does no such thing.

"I don't think that the government ought to ever have the right to tell a church to marry people if the church doesn't want to," Carter said. "I'm a Baptist, and the congregation of our church will decide whether we have a man or a woman as pastor, and whether we'll marry gay people or not."

The former president's statement marks a sharp reversal from his position last year, when he criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for not establishing a constitutional right to marriage equality nationwide.

"It should be a right nationwide," Carter told CNN in June 2013, shortly after the High Court opted not to rule on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama backed a constitutional right to marriage equality for the first time, telling the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin that the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law required nothing less than full equality for same-sex couples. While the president had backed marriage equality in 2012, he said at the time, as Carter does now, that the issue should be decided at the state level. Although many LGBT activists cheered the president's embrace of marriage equality, critics noted that his leave-it-to-the-states position implied that same-sex couples' rights would be contingent on where they lived.

By Luke Brinker

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Gay Marriage Gay Rights Jimmy Carter Lgbt Marriage Equality Proposition 8 Same-sex Marriage