Mark Sanford On Marriage Equality: 'Who Are You To Deny Love?' Asks Jake Tapper

As marriage equality has emerged as one of the Beltway's topics du jour, inquiries as to when lawmakers intend to "evolve" on the issue have been in abundance. But whither former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford?

Sanford, famously, has made his feelings about traditional marriage quite clear. As his history of mistress-having and telling-constituents-lies-about-the-mistress-having demonstrates, he's clearly not too terribly impressed with the "sanctity" of the institution. "This was a whole lot more than a simple affair," said Sanford in June 2009. "This was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

So, newly minted as his party's nominee for the South Carolina 1st Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives, Sanford made an appearance this afternoon on CNN's new show "The Lead," and host Jake Tapper threw the high, hard stuff at him on marriage equality: “Who are you to deny love between two men or two women, when you are somebody who talks about following his heart, regardless of the laws and traditions of the state of South Carolina? Why are you sitting in judgment of same-sex couples, when you have had the life you have had?”

A good question, which Sanford immediately opted to address in bloodless, philosophical terms rather than through the prism of his personal life:

SANFORD: Well, I think that it's important not to redefine my view, which to an extent, what you just described, is. What I've said is, I indeed back in 1996, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, I was a member of Congress, you know, just as President Clinton signed the bill into law, and just as President Clinton, and just as President Obama up until about a year ago allegedly believed and prescribed that same law.

Sure enough. But times change, people "evolve," and now the Obama White House isn't even making an effort to defend DOMA. Clinton, who like Sanford, was hardly an exemplar of husbandry circa 1996, has disowned DOMA as well. (And, fun fact: during Sanford's last stint in the House, he cast a vote to impeach Clinton over the president's famous infidelities ... a stance from which he has since "evolved.") So what of it? Sanford continued:

SANFORD: What I have said is I think the current debate has little to do with same-sex marriage and a whole lot to do with democratic traditions in this country, and a whole lot to do with the courts. I think that if you’re a conservative, you believe in this notion of federalism, that one size does not fit all and that we shouldn’t have prescriptive answers coming out of Washington, D.C., for any of the different things ultimately that we have got to resolve as a family of Americans. And so to have an unelected set of judges decide what is or is not for all 50 states to me does not make sense.

Sanford didn't go on to express any criticism or condemnation of the states that have created the space for marriage equality through the legislative process. But as to Tapper's point -- how does Sanford's own experience breaking with the sanctity of marriage inform his opinion on the subject -- well ... he'd rather not get into it.

Interestingly enough, as Michael B. Keegan, People For The American Way president, pointed out on these pages, Sanford doesn't always shy away from talking about what he's learned from his mistakes. And in a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, Sanford offered the following insight:

SANFORD: I think we all need grace and we all need love. There's plenty of judgment to go around and there's certainly a role by folks in the media and others to be played in getting things uncovered and wrongs right, but I think that there is abiding need for human grace and love. I got it that day on the street and I've gotten many times since then with people across my state.

I guess it's "grace and love" for Mark Sanford, tiny American flags for same-sex couples.

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