An Iowa county
judge's ruling knocking down the state's same-sex marriage
ban stirred up the presidential race Friday, as Republicans
jostled to stake out a position with the state's
conservative voters in mind.
Mitt Romney was
the first to seize on the ruling, promptly aligning
himself with Iowa political leaders in denouncing the
Massachusetts governor's swift criticism served to bolster
the conservative image his campaign has been working
hard to promote to Iowa's Republican voters. Romney
stressed his support for a federal amendment that
would ban same-sex marriage--a stand that
distinguishes him from his top rivals, who have said
they prefer to leave such decisions to the states.
''The ruling in
Iowa...is another example of an activist court and
unelected judges trying to redefine marriage and disregard
the will of the people as expressed through Iowa's
Defense of Marriage Act,'' Romney said in a statement
shortly after the ruling was made. ''This once again
highlights the need for a Federal Marriage Amendment to
protect the traditional definition of marriage as
between one man and one woman.''
On Friday, Polk
County judge Robert Hanson, who ruled Thursday that the
state's decade-old ban on same-sex marriage was
unconstitutional, issued a stay on his own ruling. The
stay closed the window for any gay couples seeking to
marry in Polk County.
But the decision
inflamed an issue that is important to conservative
Republicans in this early-voting state.
Rodham Clinton was the first Democrat to offer a reaction.
Taping an appearance Friday on The Ellen DeGeneres
Show, Clinton said she favors civil unions ''with full
equality of benefits.'' But she said the question of
same-sex marriage should be left up to the states.
''The states have
always determined age of marriage, other conditions,
and over time we've gotten rid of a lot of discrimination
that used to exist in marriage laws,'' she said.
''That's now happening. People are making decisions:
civil unions, marriage. They're deciding in the states,
and I think that's the appropriate place for that to be.''
A spokesman for
Democrat Barack Obama said the senator ''believes these
matters should be left to the states, which is why he
opposes the Defense of Marriage Act.''
Democratic candidates have voiced support for same-sex civil
unions, they have declined to back marriage equality, a
stance that has created some tension with their gay
the task was to not offend conservatives.
House hopeful John McCain called the ruling ''a loss for
the traditional family.''
''I have always
supported the traditional definition of marriage as
between one man and one woman,'' he said. ''The ruling of
the court only reinforces my belief that we must have
a president who is committed to appointing strict
constructionists to the bench.''
Sam Brownback, who has worked hard to gain the backing of
social conservatives in Iowa, offered a sharp rejection of
the judge's ruling.
''The people of
Iowa reject the redefinition of marriage, and I pledge
today to defend the bond of marriage, as I have consistently
done in the past,'' he said in a statement.
Jarrod Agen, a
spokesman for Rudy Giuliani, said the former New York City
mayor ''believes marriage is between a man and a woman.''
Giuliani has supported limited legal recognition for
increasingly clear why we need judges who interpret the
Constitution rather than legislate from the bench,'' Agen
said. ''It's the reason why Rudy is committed to
appointing strict constructionist judges in the vein
of Alito, Roberts, and Scalia.''
senator Fred Thompson, who will officially enter the
presidential race next week, has offered support for a
federal amendment that would prevent states without
same-sex marriage laws from having to recognize
same-sex marriages from other states.
On Friday, Romney
discussed the matter in a private conference call with
Iowa house Republican leader Christopher Rants, who has
endorsed Romney; and Kris Mineau, president of the
Massachusetts Family Institute, which worked on
marriage issues in Massachusetts.
campaigning in South Carolina, Romney said he would renew
his calls to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex
marriage. ''That's essential to our future,'' he said.
While Romney is
willing to generally leave it to states to decide how to
set up health care coverage plans, he said it shouldn't be
left to states to decide same-sex marriage issues.
''It's a status
that lasts a lifetime. And so, if somebody is married in
one state and they move to another state, that status
travels with them. And so, if you have gay marriage in
one state, whether you want it or not, you have gay
marriage in all states,'' Romney told reporters after
speaking at a Greenville, S.C., restaurant.
director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and
Politics at Iowa State University, said the ruling could
fire up social conservatives.
probably stir up the social conservatives in the state and
make the climate better in Iowa for the most socially
conservative of the presidential candidates,'' she
said. ''That would be most of them, except Giuliani, I
She said Romney
can use the issue to dispel any lingering doubts about
his commitment to social conservative causes.
''He's very much
trying to establish himself with the social
conservatives in the state who, even though he won the
Republican straw poll, eye him somewhat suspiciously
as not being conservative enough because of being
governor of Massachusetts, which did allow gay
marriages, and [because] he switched his position on
reproductive choice,'' she said.
a political scientist at Drake University in Des Moines,
said Giuliani could stress his opposition to same-sex
marriage to help reassure some conservatives who find
his antiterrorism stance appealing but reject his past
support for some abortion rights.
Giuliani a chance to play,'' Goldford said. (AP)