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Romney calls marriage 'tender' issue, repeats stance

 

Updated 5:31 p.m. - Mitt Romney reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage on Wednesday but declined to condemn President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, noting the sensitivity of the issue.

Following a campaign speech in Oklahoma that focused primarily on energy, jobs and the economy, the presumptive Republican nominee reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage in light of Obama's announcement today.

"I have the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor," he said. "I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman."

It was an opinion that Romney had voiced earlier in the day to television affiliates in Colorado, when the former Massachusetts governor faced questions amid growing speculation that Obama would announce his support for same-sex marriages.

But while Romney's position contrasted with Obama's, he declined to sharply criticize the president -- saying he would leave it up to the media to parse out Obama's "evolution" on the issue.

"This is a very tender and sensitive topic as are many social issues, but I have the same views I've had since running for office," he said.

Earlier: Romney renews opposition to same-sex marriage

Romney has previously backed certain benefits for gay couples -- for instance, the right to visit with a sick partner in the hospital -- but said each state should be free to determine their own laws.

It was a markedly more subdued reaction by Romney compared to some conservatives, who condemned Obama's support for gay and lesbian couples' ability to marry.

"The announcement today by President Obama should come as no surprise to the American public," said Rick Santorum, Romney's erstwhile conservative challenger in the Republican primary. "President Obama has consistently fought against protecting the institution of marriage from radical social engineering at both the state and federal level."

"While President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that."

Obama: 'I think same-sex couples should be able to get married'

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who passed up an opportunity to run for president in 2012 but maintains a reservoir of support among social conservatives, also condemned Obama's announcement.

"Obama, Pelosi and the Democrats have been a complete failure on economic issues so now they are going to focus on issues that will rile up their base," Huckabee wrote in a statement released by his PAC. "Well, Mr. President it's going to rile up our folks also. Men and women who support traditional marriage."

A spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry said: "Election year politics will never change Gov. Perry's unwavering commitment to the sanctity of marriage, defined as a union between one man and one woman. He is proud of North Carolina voters who last night elected to enshrine that definition in their constitution, joining Texas and an increasing number of states in the ongoing effort to defend marriage. Once again, it's clear that President Obama's political ideology doesn't line up with the will of the voters."

Romney campaign reckons with gay rights after aide's exit

But for as many conservative voices decried the president's announcement on Wednesday, many more Republicans kept their silence, including most GOP leaders in both houses of Congress.

"Well I think he made his position pretty clear. I've always believed that marriage is between a man and a woman," House Speaker John Boehner said on the Fox Business Network. Boehner said he wasn't familiar with a proposed amendment to the Constitution to define marriage, but said Obama's announcement was a "very controversial" notion.

By contrast, Democratic supporters of the president could, for the most part, hardly contain their jubilation for Obama's decision.

"Today marks progress for the civil rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "With President Obama's support, we look forward to the day when all American families are treated equally in the eyes of the law."

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who endured her own shift toward supporting gay marriage, also hailed the president's announcement as "a watershed moment in American history."