House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday that he believes same-sex marriage should be legal — and the No. 3 House Democrat appeared to go further than President Obama in suggesting that a national policy, rather than a state-by-state one, is needed on the issue.
“I, like the president, have evolved to a point of marriage equality,” Clyburn said in an interview on MSNBC. “I have not always been there. I grew up in a parsonage, a fundamentalist Christian parsonage, and I grew up with that indoctrination. And I have grown to the point that I believe that we have evolved to marriage equality.”
He added that he differs with Obama when it comes to a state-by-state approach.
“If we consider this to be a civil right — and I do — I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach,” Clyburn said. “I think that we should have a national policy on this.”
The move makes Clyburn the latest member of Democratic leadership to come out in support of same-sex marriage in the wake of Obama’s announcement last week. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been a longtime backer of gay marriage, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) last week announced for the first time that he, too, supports allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), meanwhile, offered a somewhat more nuanced take, saying in a statement last week that he personally believes that marriage is between a man and a woman but adding that “in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want.”
In Monday’s MSNBC interview, Clyburn drew a comparison between the gay marriage debate and the debate over interracial marriage.
“I will remind you that in my lifetime, it was illegal in some states — this state, one of them — for black and white couples to get married,” he said. “I think that we have seen in many churches that call themselves fundamentalist and Christian teach a theological tolerance of slavery and servitude.”
He added: “These kinds of things are there — there are contradictions based in the scripture that we all have to work our way through, and sometimes it takes the federal government to step into the breach in order to resolve many of these issues. It certainly did that through the courts with the marriage question, and it also did the same thing when it comes to whether people of color have got the same rights that white people have.”