In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader Texas Gov. Rick Perry discussed his potential presidential run. This was the most interesting part of the discussion:

In a telephone interview, Perry, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, described himself as “a full-throated unapologetic fiscal conservative” and “an unapologetic social conservative” who is “pro-life” and “pro-traditional marriage.”

But while Texas has written into its constitution that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman, he said New York’s recent decision to implement same-sex marriage “is New York’s prerogative.”

As I have suggested before, a 10th Amendment approach to gay marriage and abortion is both in keeping with the party’s defense of federalism and smart politics. As gay rights moves from the courts to state legislatures and referendums, it will, I would suggest, become increasing difficult for conservatives to decry democratically approved gay marriage laws. Social conservatives certainly have every right to try to influence the process and convince others that gay marriage is a bad idea, but it’s dicey for conservatives to argue with the results of votes on public policy by popularly elected state officials.

Margaret Hoover, whose new book looks at how the GOP can appeal to young voters, told me over the weekend: “I like Rick Perry’s reliance on the 10th Amendment.” In her view, “This is the path forward to uniting the conservative coalition on this issue in 2012.”

No, it’s not going to satisfy those social conservatives committed to banning gay marriage everywhere and who see the Full Faith and Credit clause as a means of foisting one state’s decision on gay marriage on others. But it is significant that a self-described, “‘unapologetic social conservative’ who is ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-traditional marriage’”can embrace a position that the country can live with states deciding for themselves the marriage rules.

If the tide is turning in the country on gay marriage it is because the arguments against gay marriage are no longer persuasive with a significant chunk of the electorate. If conservatives really believe courts should not “make up” rights unspecified in the Constitution and should let elected entities decide public policy, then it seems Perry’s position is not only practical but also intellectually consistent. At some point, you have to trust the voters, and if you can’t persuade them, then learn to live with the results of policies you don’t favor.