A plausible defense from a former Senate aide involved in the federal marriage amendment debate:
Keep in mind that what he’s saying, although flip, is not inconsistent with the Ramesh’s position circa 2003/2004 on why, on policy grounds, conservatives should support the Hatch version of the FMA.
Perry can say “the legislature can do that” but be strongly opposed to courts using/abusing the federal constitution to impose a one-size-fits-all position nationwide. The Hatch version protected against federal court-imposed same-sex marriage, but allowed states to go their own way legislatively. I understand, because like you I watched it up close, that this was anathema to many social conservatives, but I think that if you poked around you’d find that, given the complete dearth of national leadership on this issue nowadays, many in that same crowd would today grudgingly accept a Hatch version just to block the Ted Olsen lawsuit out in California.
Whether Perry ends up endorsing a specific FMA or not, I don’t know, but I do think that his quick response doesn’t tell us that he is libertarian or indifferent on the issue — just that he sees it as something that can be isolated state-to-state. We’ll see; I’m sure he’ll say more.
Carson Holloway suggests a rewrite:
asked about the New York law, he might simply have said: “I disagree with the New York legislature’s decision, because I believe that marriage is properly understood as a union between one man and one woman. But under our constitution they certainly had the authority to do what they did, because our constitution protects the rights of states to develop diverse policies suited to their own population’s beliefs. Nevertheless, what really concerns me is the ongoing effort by some on the left to impose same-sex marriage on the entire nation by bringing cases in federal courts. Those cases are based on politicized interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment and amount to attacks not only on marriage, but also on the right of self-government and the rule of law.”
I know that politicians are often trained to talk in sound bites. But the response above is only about 100 words long and could probably be stated in about 40 seconds, and certainly in a minute. If you can’t give a response of this length to a question of this nature, then we might as well admit that rational self-government is impossible.