Presidential hopefuls seeking to win conservative voters were quick to voice criticism of an Iowa county judge's ruling to allow gay "marriage" in his county despite the state's ban on same-sex civil "marriage."
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the first to denounce the decision by Polk County Judge Robert Hanson, who last Thursday ruled that the state's decade-old same-sex "marriage" ban violated the couples' constitutional rights. Romney even voiced support of a federal ban on same-sex "marriage."
"The ruling in Iowa … is another example of an activist court and unelected judges trying to redefine marriage and disregard the will of the people as expressed through Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act," the Republican contender said in a statement shortly after the ruling was made, according to The Associated Press.
"This once again highlights the need for a Federal Marriage Amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman," he said.
Romney has been accused of flip-flopping on key issues held by the conservative voting base such as abortion and gay rights. He was previously pro-choice and has been fiercely fighting to win the trust of pro-life voters emphasizing he is now anti-abortion.
Likewise, Romney is viewed with suspicion by many conservative Christian voters for being the former governor of the only state in the nation where same-sex "marriage" is legal.
His quick move to denounce the ruling is said to be a political maneuver to enhance his conservative image among Republican voters.
Also criticizing the Iowa ruly were Republican presidential contenders Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson.
"The people of Iowa reject the redefinition of marriage, and I pledge today to defend the bond of marriage, as I have consistently done in the past," Brownback, who came in third in the recent Iowa straw poll, said according to AP.
Meanwhile, republican frontrunner former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani rejected gay "marriage" but supports limited recognition of same-sex couples.
Top democratic presidential contenders Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) responded that although they are in favor of civil unions, they leave same-sex "marriage" laws up to the state to decide.
Since last Thursday's ruling, some 20 same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Polk Country before Hanson issued a stay on his decision Friday.
Several prominent Christian groups have condemned the Iowa ruling, in which the country judge claimed that Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act – which allows marriage only between a man and a woman – was unconstitutional and marriage laws must be interpreted as gender neutral so as to recognize same-sex "marriage."
"This decision demonstrates that judicial activism is still a problem," said Family Research Council's president, Tony Perkins, in a statement. "For a judge to have 'nullified, severed, and stricken' from the law the definition of marriage inherent in both tradition and statute is an outrageous act of judicial activism."
Perkins urged Iowans to respond by passing a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
"That's the only sure way to protect the institution of marriage from radical social engineering by state judges," said the pro-family conservative leader.
Other Christian groups which have condemned Judge Hanson's ruling include Concerned Women for America, the Baptist Convention of Iowa, and the Iowa Family Policy Center.