Jeb Bush, the new GOP presidential front-runner (but at this early stage, don’t bet the ranch), weighed in on gay marriage. What he said marks a welcome shift toward moderation in line with statements by other GOP governors of late (including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, among others), and is in marked contrast to earlier Bush statements (actually, in contrast to his statements of just a few days earlier).
Republicans who are not creatures of the religious right like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that a moderate position on gay marriage for most Americans today (as opposed to four or eight years ago) is the freedom to marry.
As gay couples began to wed in Florida after a court ruling, Jeb Bush, the state’s former governor and long an opponent of same-sex marriages, struck a conciliatory note on Monday, telling The New York Times that “regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.” …
Mr. Bush’s comments suggested a tepid acceptance of the new legal status, or at least an acknowledgment that there is little he can do to block it.
“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Mr. Bush said in a statement. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue—including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”
The Times further noted:
His remarks were markedly more sympathetic to same-sex marriage than comments he made to The Miami Herald on Sunday as he left a golf course. “It ought be a local decision—I mean, a state decision,” Mr. Bush told The Herald. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”
Gay rights leaders said they found Mr. Bush’s statement on Monday encouraging. Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a group that has pushed for same-sex marriage, said that “most Republican politicians have been adamant in their opposition and provide no room for evolution.” Mr. Bush “at least is expressing his respect for those who support marriage equality,” Mr. Sainz said. “That’s a big change for Republicans.”
And on this point, I must agree with HRC.
According to a look at Bush’s statement and the responses to it by Business Insider, “Jeb Bush Changes His Tune On Gay Marriage“:
Bush was clearly attempting to strike a moderate tone with his statement. The Miami Herald’s Mark Caputo, one of the foremost experts on Sunshine State politics, described it as having a “neither too-hot-nor-cold Goldilocks quality.” However, it was still a marked shift from his past comments on gay marriage.
LGBT Democrats will complain that tepid acceptance is no longer acceptable. Indeed, according to Business Insider:
“Jeb Bush remains as out of touch as ever with Floridians and voters nationwide on the civil rights issue of our time,” the [Florida Democratic Party’s] chair, Allison Tant, said in a statement. “Bush championed these discriminatory policies as governor, and it’s a shame that he remains determined to stand for the forces of bigotry.”
This, of course, ignores that just a few years ago their beloved Clintons were also opposed to same-sex marriage, as for that matter was Barack Obama, but let’s not get sidetracked into the swamp of LGBT Democratic hypocrisy.
We conclude that accepting the inevitable is indeed a sign of progress for the leading presidential contenders from the nation’s conservative party.
I should add that I find it increasingly difficult to take N.J. Gov. Chris Christie seriously, but let’s note that his tone about gay marriage is more antagonistic that the latest statements from Bush and even Rubio. Christie is willing to accept the inevitable in New Jersey but calls on the GOP to continue fighting against the freedom to marry nationally. That attempt to court social conservatives who aren’t going to support him anyway shows, again, how out of touch he is.
Furthermore. Mitt Romney, who apparently still supports a federal constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage nationally, looks likely to challenge Bush for the center right space. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out. The divergence is being noted. The Independent reports:
This week [Bush] also set himself apart from many conservatives (and Mr Romney) on gay marriage. While not fully endorsing same-sex marriage, he said in a statement that rulings by court judges allowing it, as has just happened in Florida, should be respected by everyone. “We live in a democracy,” he said, “and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.”