WASHINGTON – President Bush said on Tuesday that he could support a constitutional amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage.
"If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman [and would] codify that," he said during an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Primetime.”
Bush also condemned the Massachusetts Supreme Court that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, calling it unconstitutional.
"Let me tell you, the court I thought overreached its bounds as a court," the president said. "It did the job of the legislature. It was a very activist court in making the decision it made. As you know, I'm a person who believes in judicial restraint, as opposed to judicial activism that takes the place of the legislative branch."
In July Bush said that government lawyers were studying the "best way" to protect the definition of marriage, but did not directly mention upholding a federal amendment for marriage.
However, on Tuesday’s interview, Bush waded deeper into the topic, saying that the Massachusetts’s rulings "undermine the sanctity of marriage" and could mean that "we may need a constitutional amendment."
"The position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state at the state level,” said Bush.
Bush said he believes his view on the topic does not make him intolerant.
"I do believe in the sanctity of marriage ... but I don't see that as conflict with being a tolerant person or an understanding person," he said. “I do believe in the sanctity of marriage. But tolerance and belief in marriage aren't mutually exclusive points of view."
In comments not broadcast but included in an ABCNews.com transcript, the president said the federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996, might be in danger. The law gives states the option of not recognizing another state's same-sex "marriages." Conservatives fear that a federal court eventually will rule it unconstitutional.
"It may be undermined at this point," he said. "I also think it's very important, on this subject, that the country be tolerant of people and understand people...."
Political leaders were split on the issue. Some conservative leaders said they want to see a strong push for an amendment that would also ban civil unions while other said such a cause would lead to certain defeat.
Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, praised Bush's comments. The Alliance for Marriage drafted the current amendment.
"We are grateful to President Bush for saying that he may support a marriage amendment in response to the constitutional challenges to all state and federal marriage laws that are expected to follow from the recent Massachusetts court decision," Daniels said in a statement.