Considering the source, this is rather huge. Gingrich, in spite of his serial infidelity, tried to portray himself as some kind of religious right wonderboy in the last election. And more generally, he’s always been a severe conservative, to use the Romney vernacular. So for him to admit that it’s pretty much over, in terms of the battle against gay marriage, is pretty much huge.
From Sam Stein and Jon Ward at the Huffington Post, a rather remarkable interview with Gingrich:
On gay marriage, meanwhile, Gingrich argued that Republicans could no longer close their eyes to the course of public opinion. While he continued to profess a belief that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, he suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” — the latter being acceptable.
“I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with,” he said, noting that the debate’s dynamics had changed after state referenda began resulting in the legalization 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.”
Gingrich, who famously did not embrace his lesbian half-sister Candice during the 1990s, now mentions Candace as one of the reasons he has a personal stake in the gay marriage debate (it would have been nice to see exactly what Gingrich said):
Stepping back from the political, Gingrich noted that he has a personal stake in the gay marriage debate. His half-sister works at the Human Rights Campaign. He has gay friends who’ve gotten married in Iowa. The man who once compared same-sex marriage to paganism is now worried that the Republican Party could find itself trapped in a bygone era on the matter.
And here’s the part where Gingrich implies that gay marriage is now “inevitable”:
“I didn’t think that was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago, when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “It didn’t seem at the time to be anything like as big a wave of change as we are now seeing.”
On multiple levels, this article elicits a “wow.”
And to reiterate, it doesn’t matter if we don’t like Gingrich. It doesn’t matter if we think he’d change his tune had he won the presidency (and I doubt he’d have been this “nice” had he won). What matters if that he’s a huge conservative leader of at least a faction of the GOP, and one of their top “thinkers,” and he’s pretty much concluded that the battle over gay marriage is over, the GOP and the religious right and the bigots lost.
I can’t help but wonder what effect Gingrich’s comments will have on the Supreme Court.
Scalia is a “flat out” “unreconstructed bigot,” as Barney Frank put it today. So don’t expect much from him when gay marriage goes before the Supreme Court in March of this year. But for Justices who might be in the middle, who are weighing just how far society has come on the issue of gay marriage, and who take that into consideration when reaching their decision, Gingrich’s “white flag” is quite a strong signal that “the momentum is clearly now in the direction” of gay marriage advocates, and that we’re a seeing an unexpected “wave of change” on the issue.
Gingrich’s comments signal that ruling in favor of gay marriage is not the earth-shattering, society-splitting decision that Roe v. Wade was 40 years ago. If Gingrich can accept it, even begrudgingly, then it’s no longer the controversy it once was.