My latest article for the magazine, on social conservatives’ strength inside the Republican party and weakness outside it, observes in passing that President Trump incurs lower political costs for socially conservative policies than other Republicans do. Those policies don’t reinforce an image of him as a theocratic zealot because absolutely nobody holds that image. Along with the general crush of news during this presidency, that helps explain why the president’s new initiative stripping some federal funding from Planned Parenthood, which would have been a huge story under, say, President Jeb Bush, hasn’t even been discussed on any of the Sunday shows since it was announced.
Indeed, Trump can take socially conservative positions in public while many people remain in the dark about it, both because they don’t associate him with those positions and because he does not always maintain a consistent message on them.
So it is with Trump and same-sex marriage. My article mentions that he declared himself against it during the campaign, and a few people have expressed incredulity over this point. But it is true.
Asked about the topic in June 2015, Trump told Jake Tapper he was for “traditional marriage.” A few weeks later, after the Supreme Court held that all states had to recognize same-sex marriage, Trump told Howard Kurtz he would have preferred for the Court to have left states to make their own decisions but suggested that overturning the ruling was not a priority. He told The Hollywood Reporter it was a “dead issue.” But in January 2016, before the Iowa caucuses, he told Chris Wallace that he would “strongly consider” appointing justices who would overturn the ruling.
After winning the November 2016 election he said that whether he supported or opposed same-sex marriage was “irrelevant” because the Supreme Court had made its ruling, adding, “I’m fine with that.”
Everything he said during the campaign and even afterward was consistent with opposing same-sex marriage but not caring much about the topic. He rarely talked about the issue; as far as I know, his last word on it during the campaign was his comment to Chris Wallace about “seriously considering” making nominations to the Supreme Court partly on the basis of that opposition.