Graham talks Confederate flag, gay marriage on ‘Meet the Press’

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday predicted that a Republican Party national platform opposing same-sex marriage would “hurt us in 2016,” and said the Confederate flag has to come down quickly if South Carolina is to move forward.

“I see it as a road block for South Carolina,” Graham, R-S.C., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Put it in a museum.”

Graham, who is one of as many as 15 Republicans running for the White House, was asked about the future of gay marriage stances by the GOP following Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing such bonds nationally.

The party’s 2012 platform said Republicans “affirm our support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Graham was asked by moderator Chuck Todd if that wording should be excluded from next summer’s 2016 convention.

“I think, I agree with Jeb (Bush),” Graham said, and that amending the Constitution remained a long shot.

“In my view, you can put it in the platform, but it will, in my view, hurt us in 2016 because it’s a process that’s not going to bear fruit,” he added.

Graham went on to say he would continue to fight for protecting the religious liberties of groups that believe opposing same-sex marriage is part of their faith, something he would uphold if elected president.

“If you have a church, a mosque or a synagogue, and you’re following your faith, and you refuse to perform a same-sex marriage, because it’s outside the tenets of your faith ... in my presidency, you will not lose your tax-exempt status,” he said. “If you’re a gay person or a gay couple, if I’m president of the United States, you will be able to participate in commerce and be a full member of society, consistent with the religious beliefs of others who have rights also.”

Graham was in Charleston on Friday for the funeral of the Rev. and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine people killed June 17 inside the Emanuel AME Church. All nine victims were black while accused shooter, Dylann Roof, 21, is white.

He said the legislative compromise that moved the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome, to the solder’s memorial by lawmakers in 2000, can no longer be supported, given the killings and the meanings connected to the flag.

“But after the shooting, it didn’t work,” he said. “My state will never be able to move forward after this shooting if we don’t take the flag down. The people at the AME church, the families of the victims changed everything by their grace, by their love, by their forgiveness, making it impossible for a guy like me to say, ‘Keep the flag up.’ ”

Graham also was asked about President Barack Obama’s speech during the funeral, in which he both supported bringing the flag down and sang “Amazing Grace,” getting those inside the TD Arena to join in.

“A great speech, good singer. I don’t think he’s a very good commander in chief,” Graham said. “But he did a very good job.”