Pawlenty plays it safe -- but smart -- on homosexuality

GOP presidential hopeful and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said today he’s not sure whether homosexuality is genetic or behavioral. Political Ticker reports:

“As I understand the science, there’s no current conclusion that it’s genetic,” Pawlenty said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Saying he preferred to “defer to the scientists” about the issue, the former Minnesota governor said it was unclear if being gay or lesbian was a lifestyle choice.

“There’s no scientific conclusion that it’s genetic. We don’t know that. So, we don’t know to what extent it’s behavioral,” Pawlenty said. “That’s something that has been debated by scientists for a long time.”

T-Paw didn’t pass on the chance to reiterate his support for traditional marriage, however. He phrased his views positively, emphasizing that he is a proponent of marriage between one man and one woman and saying simply, “I have not supported the issues of allowing gay couples to have the same benefits in public employment as traditional couples.”

Political Ticker and other news outlets framed Pawlenty’s remarks as a “punt,” but, from where I sit, he answered the question the only way he could have. So far, science has not conclusively established homosexuality as a genetic predisposition. Given that Pawlenty presumably disapproves of gay behavior, what did he have to gain by either absolving gay couples of responsibility for that behavior or blatantly accusing them of poor choices?

Conversely, he did have something to gain by making a statement in support of traditional marriage — an institution his base likewise values and wants to see protected. (Keep in mind just 28 percent of Republicans think same-sex marriage should be legal and just 25 percent of conservatives hold that view.) Perhaps Pawlenty played it safe, but, primarily, he played it smart.