Gingrich says state gay marriage laws better than court rulings

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said Friday that he disagrees personally with same-sex marriage, but states that have approved it legislatively are “doing it the right way.”

Gingrich, the former U.S. House Speaker from Georgia, met with lawmakers Friday in Washington state, where same-sex marriage passed the legislature this month. Maryland lawmakers approved same-sex marriage this week. Six states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and five states allow civil unions with similar rights.

"I think at least they're doing it the right way, which is going through voters, giving them a chance to vote and not having a handful of judges arbitrarily impose their will,” Gingrich said when asked about the votes in Washington state and Maryland. “I don't agree with it. I would vote no if it were on a referendum where I was, but at least they're doing it the right way."

The issue is a tricky balance between federalism and conservative Christian philosophy that tripped up former presidential hopeful, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, last year. After New York approved same-sex marriage, Perry said it was “fine by me” in July because it was a states’ rights issue. Perry quickly clarified his position in an interview with the Family Research Council: “Obviously, gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.”

Gingrich has forcefully spoken out against so-called activist judges, and aided a successful 2010 effort to vote out Iowa Supreme Court justices who had ruled that gays had a right to marry under the state’s constitution.

Gingrich is on a two-day swing through Washington state, which holds its Republican caucus March 3.