Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich wants to fly the conservative flag in Republican nomination battle Reuters

Former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has taken a new position on marriage equality, stating the he can accept the “reality” of same-sex marriage if it is just a government-issued contract.

"The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to ... accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states -- and it will be more after 2014 -- gay relationships will be legal, period," Gingrich told the Huffington Post Thursday.

While the thrice-wed Gingrich stated that he still believes marriage is defined as being between a man and woman, he suggested that the party, and he himself, could accept a distinction between a "marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state -- the latter being acceptable."

But Gingrich does believe the road toward accepting gay marriage might be a particularly hard battle for conservatives. He specifically compared it to the GOP’s recent shifts on immigration policy in an effort to court the Latino vote.

The shift toward accepting gay marriage comes as surprise for many familiar with Gingrich’s policies. As speaker, he was instrumental in passing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which President Bill Clinton signed.

However, after voters in Washington, Maryland, and Maine voted for marriage equality in the 2012 election, Gingrich seems to have decided that the Republican Party must simply be prepared to adapt to the nation’s changing social and political landscape.

Gingrich, who has a lesbian half-sister, is not the only former DOMA supporter who has now come out in support of gay marriage. Even DOMA’s sponsor, former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., has criticized the legislation in the 16 years since its passing.