Governor Who Once Pushed Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Now Calls Marriage A ‘States’ Issue

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN)
Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN)

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) has long been one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of marriage equality, pushing repeatedly to preserve the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage nationwide. But now, as he aggressively pushes for a state constitutional ban in Indiana, he is taking the contradictory position that the definition of marriage is a states-rights issue.

Friday, asked by MSNBC host Chuck Todd whether Indiana should recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples married in other states, Pence said his state should not, and that Indiana should be free to define marriage as it chooses.

TODD: Do you think the state of Indiana should recognize same-sex marriages of folks, of Indiana residents if they go and get married, say, here in Washington, D.C., where it’s legal? Should the state of Indiana recognize that marriage?

PENCE: In the state of Indiana, marriage is recognized as between a man and a woman, and I think that’s how it should remain. […]

TODD: Do you think the Supreme Court needs to just get rid of the ambiguity that’s out there? Because it seems like there’s a lot of federal courts that are going in different directions.

PENCE: There’s a lot — there’s a lot of litigation under way right now, and at the end of the day, there will likely be additional decisions by the United States Supreme Court. And my hope is that the Supreme Court will affirm the fact that this question should be resolved by the people and by the states. I will tell you that my steadfast position on this is on matters of such consequence in our society that the people, and not unelected judges, should make these decisions.

Watch the interview:

In 2003, Pence co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have enshrined in the constitution that marriage in the United States “shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” and that neither the U.S. Constitution “or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”


A year later, he took to the House floor to reiterate his support. “Ordained by God, confirmed by law, marriage is the glue of the family and the safest harbor for children,” he argued, unsuccessfully urging his colleagues to “heed President Bush’s courageous moral leadership, pass the marriage amendment, and affirm the confidence of the American people in our ability to defend their most cherished of institutions.” Pressed on CNN’s Crossfire by host Paul Begala on why the decision should not be left up to states like Massachusetts as to who may marry, Pence explained, “This is a national issue. We need a national solution. And a constitutional amendment gives an opportunity for the American people to be heard, to defend marriage.” And in 2011, he voted to reaffirm DOMA,

Todd is incorrect that federal courts have been going in different directions. In fact, since the Supreme Court’s Windsor ruling last year struck down DOMA as unconstitutional, every single federal court ruling has sided with the rights of same-sex couples in all 50 states to have their marriages legally recognized.

As a result of the losses in these cases, strong national support for marriage equality, and California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and New Mexico all become marriage-equality states, opponents like Pence have been forced to adopt a series of contradictory, and thus far unsuccessful, strategies.