Former Florida governor and expected Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush appears to be sounding an uncertain trumpet regarding his views on same-sex marriage
Bush does not seem ready to jettison the rhetoric about supporting traditional marriage, but key staff appointments and other recent statements indicate either his views are evolving (a la Hillary Clinton)–or his true views are coming to the fore.
Bush’s communications director, Tim Miller, is openly gay; and others in his inner circle support same-sex marriage, including Mike Murphy, who is working on messaging for Bush’s Right to Rise PAC.
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As reported by Western Journalism, after California Judge Vaughn Walker (who is also openly gay) overturned Proposition 8 (defining marriage as between a man and a woman) and the votes of 7 million Californians, Miller said, “I like all kinds of activist judges. Fat kinds, skinny kinds, red kinds, blue kinds. The people are too stupid to govern themselves. This is very cognitively consonant for me.”
Additionally, David Kochel, a senior adviser to the Right to Rise PAC and touted as Bush’s likely campaign manager, told an Iowa audience in 2013 that he supports same-sex marriage:
I felt this way since probably before the 2000 elections and just have always been the guy in the back of the room helping candidates with their message as opposed to thinking of my own message. But I think where the Republican Party needs to go is we need to be a more modern party, we need to be a more inclusive party.
Bush is sending signals that he may be more accepting of “marriage equality” — the strongest signal, perhaps, coming when he referred to the issue using that term favored by LGBT advocates — than he’s able to let on “His use of that term, ‘marriage equality’ – that was a first for a Republican,” said Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.
The Bush team also has been courting the support of billionaire Paul Singer, whose PAC, American Unity Fund, backs candidates who support same-sex marriage. Singer has given substantial contributions to Freedom to Marry, a bi-partisan group looking to advance same-sex marriage nationally.
In an attempt to build bridges to evangelicals, the Right to Rise PAC also hired conservative attorney and radio personality Jordan Sekulow. Sekulow serves as the executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. Christian Broadcasting Network’s political reporter, David Brody, called the hire a “major get” for the Bush team.
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“It provides him with an important evangelical voice that can help trumpet his conservative credentials within the evangelical community,” Brody wrote on his blog. “He’s super smart so can help not only with strategy but policy, too. Sekulow is well respected in these circles and getting him on board is a sign that Bush is serious about courting the evangelical vote.”
Bush’s actions have given pause to evangelicals, to whom he has also been reaching out. Rich Bott, a prominent and wealthy religious broadcaster, recalled a recent conversation he had with Bush to the Washington Times: “But (I) told him I find it incomprehensible how you could have these people at the top of your campaign and not expect them to influence policies going forward. Gov. Bush replied, ‘I don’t ask questions about their sexuality.’”
Iowa Republican and evangelical activist Bob Vander Plaats would not comment on Bush directly to the Times, but agreed with Bott’s concern about with whom a candidate associates himself. “Rich is right. We value three things in candidates: character, meaning what you say; competency, knowing how to carry out what you promise; and company, you reveal who you are by the people you surround yourself with, the company you keep.”
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Bott’s concerns appear to be well-grounded. Bush’s staff is already walking back the former governor’s statements about homosexuality. In a 2004 op-ed published in the Miami Herald, he wrote:
The public policy question is whether homosexuals deserve special legal protection…Or, to put it another way, should sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is No. We have enough special categories, enough victims, without creating even more.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
That’s not the language he would use today, his spokesmen have said. (You can almost see them wince.) “Gov. Bush believes that our society should have a culture of respect for all people, regardless of their differences, and that begins with preventing discrimination, including when it comes to sexual orientation,” Kristy Campbell, Bush’s spokeswoman, said in a statement to Buzzfeed last month.
Regarding the topic of discrimination, Bush also seemed to flip during last month’s religious liberty debate following the passage of Indiana’s RFRA. Initially, he stood with Gov. Mike Pence, but then backed away, stating that Pence “would be where he needed to be by the end of the week” after he promised to “fix” RFRA.
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