Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush announced his support for state-level LGBT nondiscrimination laws on Thursday. He also suggested that he opposed "religious freedom" laws meant to allow discrimination against LGBT customers.
Bush took questions from workers at a campaign event in San Francisco. Visiting the tech startup Thumbtack, Bush fielded questions about LGBT rights and equal pay for women.
After a man who identified as gay asked the candidate about his position on LGBT nondiscrimination laws, Bush responded forcefully.
"I don’t think you should be discriminated [against] because of your sexual orientation. Period. Over and out," he told the worker. "I think this should be done state-by-state. I totally agree with that."
Moving on to the topic of same-sex marriage, Bush tried to walk a fine line between appeasing conservatives who support "religious freedom" laws that would allow business to refuse to serve LGBT customers by citing their religious beliefs and opponents who see it as legalized discrimination. Bush has previously said that following the Supreme Court's ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, the matter is settled and Republicans should move on from the issue.
Bush thinks the nation should find a way to "balance the rights of those seeking to marry and the religious beliefs of those who oppose those unions," according to a Time magazine report on the campaign event.
But the candidate also gave himself some wiggle room when discussing the proposed laws. Using the example of a florist asked to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, clearly expressed his opinion that they should not be used to blatantly discriminate, saying "You should be obligated to sell them flowers. Doing otherwise would be discriminatory."
Backpedaling slightly, Bush clarified that he didn't think the florist should be required to "participate" in the ceremony itself. Since most florists for weddings arrive early to organize the bouquets and arrangements, it's unclear in Bush's language exactly what participating in the wedding means to him.
Bush declined to say that he supported new legislation meant to ensure women are paid equally in the workplace.
"Wages should be equal, and there are laws to make it so, and they should be enforced," Bush told a woman who asked about the subject.
The only other GOP candidate to come close to Bush's pro-LGBT stance is George Pataki, who signed a bill securing gay rights as governor of New York but now calls them "a distraction." Despite apparently supporting the issue, he has been silent on marriage equality since the June 26 ruling.