Longtime social conservative Newt Gingrich has made a surprising admission, saying he accepts marriage equality as inevitable and he's OK with it.
Voters' legalization of same-sex marriage in three states in November's election changed the debate over the issue, and conservatives have to come to terms with it, the former House speaker and Republican presidential aspirant told The Huffington Post. "It is in every family," he said. "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."
The thrice-married Gingrich, a convert to Roman Catholicism, said he recognizes the distinction between religious and civil marriage. He and his church consider the former to be limited to male-female couples, but he has no problem with the state giving legal recognition to same-sex pairs, he said.
This is a significant departure from Gingrich's previous stance; just this year, while seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he told religious right supporters, "The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization." He also signed an Iowa conservative group's pledge to support the Defense of Marriage Act and to seek a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.
But much has changed, he said. He noted to HuffPo that he not only has a lesbian half-sister, LGBT rights activist Candace Gingrich, but has gay friends who've gotten married in Iowa, where their unions are legal. Public opinion has shifted in favor of marriage equality, he said, and the Republican Party could end up on the wrong side of history if it continues to go against the tide.
"I didn't think that [marriage equality] 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."