Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has said he believes that Jesus would approve of marriage equality.
Carter, a born-again Christian, made the comment during an an interview on Sunday with HuffPost Live‘s Marc Lamont Hill about how his faith has informed his politics. He was using the interview to help promote his new book, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.
“My faith has been kind of the foundation of my encouragement when I was in trouble or failed [at] something, and [has] given me a new opportunity or motivation to reach for greater things in my own life,” Carter said in the interview. “I never have run across any serious conflicts between my political obligations and my religious faith.”
“How about gay marriage?” Hill asked.
“That’s no problem with me,” the former president said. “I think everyone should have a right to get married, regardless of their sex. The only thing I would draw the line on is I wouldn’t be in favor of the government being able to force a local church congregation to perform gay marriages if they didn’t want to. But those two partners should be able to go to the local courthouse, or to a different church, and get married.”
Carter’s comments, made in the wake of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, echo similar ones he made three years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court was about to rule on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.
Carter did say he has “had a problem with abortion” throughout his political career, particularly during his presidency, from 1977 to 1981, when the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision was still fresh.
“I have a hard time believing that Jesus, for instance, would approve abortions unless it was because of rape or incest or if the mother’s life was in danger. So I’ve had that struggle,” Carter said. “But my oath of office was to obey the Constitution and the laws of this country as interpreted as the Supreme Court, so I went along with that.”
“Would Jesus approve gay marriage?” Hill asked.
“I believe he would. I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in Scripture [to support that]…” Carter said.
“No, but just intuitively,” Hill interjected.
“I believe Jesus would approve of gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief,” Carter said. “I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”