Jimmy Carter backtracks on gay marriage

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Bless his heart. Former president and Georgia peach Jimmy Carter confused his unfettered support for gay marriage by saying that although he backs marriage equality, the issue should be left to states to decide.

“I'm kind of inclined to let the states decide individually and now as you see more and more states are deciding on gay marriages every year,” Carter told WFAA in Dallas. “But if Texas doesn't want to have gay marriages, then I think that is a right for Texas people to decide.”

Carter's comments came in a wide-ranging interview on Sunday for “Inside Texas Politics” as the former president was in Dallas on a Habitat for Humanity build. Several states, including in Georgia and Texas, face federal legal challenges against their gay marriage bans. His comments to WFAA's Jason Whitely were in a response to a question about the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to hear any gay marriage challenges, helping bring marriage equality to more than 30 states.

The former president's statements contradict his strong support for gay marriage and LGBT equality, voiced as recently as September when he told college students that anti-gay discrimination “is a violation of the basic principles of the Constitution that all of us revere in this country.”

This also poses a complication for his grandson, Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, who is locked in a tight governor's race in Georgia. Carter has picked up loads of LGBT campaign dollars and support, but stumbled over gay marriage. Press coverage and LGBT activists had to prod Carter into voicing his support for same-sex unions. The former president's comments on Sunday only remind LGBT supporters of the candidate's fumbling over the issue, which led the GA Voice to withhold its endorsement.

Also in Sunday's interview, Carter reiterated his past statements that churches should be able to decide whether or not to conduct gay marriages.

“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. And if my church votes not to marry gay people, we wouldn't do it and I would want them to.”

Like his grandfather, the younger Carter agrees that, “I don't believe you can ever tell a church who to marry.”

In a 2012 interview as he pitched a new book, the former president said his church welcomes gay members and expressed support for gay civil marriages. On Sunday, Carter again vocalized his support for LGBT equality, while confusing his position on gay marriage.

“All people ought to have an equal right and people that happen to be gay, I don't think it's preventable or caused by anything. I think they ought to have equal rights to marry.”

Someone please get Carter back to Radial Cafe for another meal with the gays.


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