Don’t mess with this! (Ed Andrieski/AP)

Gay marriage? “It’s a states’ rights issue.”

Abortion? “It’s a states’ rights issue.”

This is the balancing act that has dominated Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s not-quite-campaign so far. It’s the cake problem.

Politics is often the art of figuring out whether it is possible to have your cake and eat it simultaneously. This has been a question lately when it comes to proverbially sensitive issues such as abortion and gay rights. Gay marriage? “Best left to the states!” Well, how do you feel about an amendment banning gay marriage? “Sure, sign me up!”

“It’s not inconsistent!” everyone explains. “You just have to listen very carefully to how they phrase the question.”

Lately, Perry has come under fire for commenting that New York’s decision to legalize gay marriage was “fine by me.” “You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn’t suit you say, ‘We’d rather not have states decide that,” he noted.

But the 10th Amendment is probably not going to be the outpost on which Perry stakes his increasingly inevitable-looking campaign.

Perry now says that he supports amendments to the Constitution balancing the budget, banning abortion, banning gay marriage, and generally Doing Other Things Of Which Texas Does Not Approve.

States’ rights are all very well, but you’d think they’d know when to quit! “Look, New York,” Texas says. “I don't care how many times you want to get gay married, but just don't do it in my back yard.”

“But I’m stuck here,” New York says.

“Tough!” says Texas.

That’s why we need that national marriage amendment!

“New York clearly doesn’t know what’s good for it,” Texas points out. “Remember the Erie Canal?”

Perry has called it a states’ rights issue. But the trouble with states’ rights is that many states contumaciously persist in differing from Texas. It’s really quite inexplicable — Texas is, I hear, lovely, and everything is bigger there, except the range of relationships encompassed by the definition of marriage — but there it is.

That’s the difficulty with having a position that boils down to, “Whatever Texas does, is right.” As Perry says, you can’t believe in the 10h Amendment on some issues and then ditch it when it suits you. That is, no doubt, why he’s supporting all those constitutional amendments. These issues are best left to the states — except when they’re not.

In theory, the rights of the states ought to cut both ways. But that’s seldom how the cake gets sliced.

States’ rights?

The only one I remember seeing in that list was the right Not To Mess With Texas.