Jon Huntsman has said that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) “serves a useful purpose,” gay weekly The Washington Blade reported.

DOMA is the 1996 law that bars federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples and allows states to ignore such marriages.

“It allows states to make their own decisions, to make their own way, and the Defense of Marriage Act, I think, is a safeguard for those states to make that decision,” the former Utah governor said during an event Thursday at the National Press Club in the District of Columbia.

During an August appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, Huntsman used similar language to describe DOMA's role.

(Related: Gay marriage ban DOMA repeal bill clears Senate panel.)

Huntsman has previously endorsed civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

When asked if he endorsed President Barack Obama's plan to tie some foreign aid to gay rights, Huntsman tip-toed around the subject.

“When we do it right in this country, we exude values that the rest of the world seems to watch and emulate – values of individual dignity, liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets,” Huntsman said. “I think we ought to focus on getting our own house in order here in terms of how we treat one another, the respect we feel for one another, getting our economy back on track and fixing our core. If we can do that, I think the rest of the world will pay us a little more attention.”