Ben Carson's Gay-Marriage Misfire

Equating it with pedophilia and bestiality is the exact wrong way to launch a political career.

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Dr. Ben Carson (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

(The Root) -- It would be unfair -- well, almost -- to put the burden of carrying the conservative banner in the "gifted hands" of Dr. Ben Carson.

But in the weeks since the Wall Street Journal ran the headline "Ben Carson for President," he's been elevated to the status of conservative rock star, and he's been holding that banner high. And as I wrote earlier this week, there's no denying that no matter your politics, Carson -- a brilliant doctor and an engaging speaker -- is a "bad mother ... "

The same day I wrote that, however, he stepped all over his own good-guy image when -- as Slate's Dave Weigel reported -- his interview with Sean Hannity "got a little real" after Carson summed up his opposition to same-sex marriage by saying that no one, "be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association], be they people who believe in bestiality," has the right to redefine marriage.

Ouch -- about the only thing missing is a swipe at wives who opt to keep their maiden names.

Predictably, a petition is now circulating among Johns Hopkins students who don't want Carson to be their commencement speaker, prompting him to issue the standard "If I offended anyone" apology and to offer to withdraw.

He's certainly entitled to his opinion -- everyone is -- but Carson is not just anybody. And by coming out with such a retrograde stance on such a pivotal issue, he's damaging his own brand before he's even fully established it.

Plenty of folks are uncomfortable with same-sex unions, and that's their right. But gay marriage is happening -- it's no longer "if," it's "when." Yet at the same moment the Republican Party's own research says that continued opposition to same-sex marriage is a deal breaker for voters under 30, the good doctor is rolling out Ben Carson 2.0 with an antiquated stance against same-sex marriage. In other words, 2013 Carson is emerging as a conservative folk hero from 1992.

If he wants headlines, he's got them. But if he wants to run for elected office, as I've speculated, here are a few points that Carson might consider:

You don't have to endorse gay marriage to accept it. We live in a republic founded on Judeo-Christian values, but not -- strictly speaking -- governed by them. Someone as smart as Carson certainly knows (or should, anyway) that even if same-sex marriage doesn't comport with his personal beliefs, it's the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law that counts here, not any one man's particular understanding of morality.

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