Jeb Bush formally announced his presidential campaign today, ending months of speculation that the former Florida governor would enter the Republican race for the White House in 2016, likely as the front-runner for the party's nomination.
Bush formally announced his campaign this afternoon at Miami-Dade Community College, complete with a red logo proclaiming "Jeb! 2016."
"Our country is on a very bad course," said Bush around 4 p.m. local time. "And we have to decide what we're going to do about it. I have to decide what I'm going to do about it.
"So I've decided: I'm a candidate for president of the United States of America," Bush said, letting out an audible sigh amid a crowd chanting "Jeb, Jeb, Jeb!"
"These have been rough years for faith-based organizations," Bush continued, alluding to charities that have elected to shut their doors rather than abide by existing law regarding marriage equality, adoption, or the Affordable Care Act.
Bush called out his presumptive challenger, Hillary Clinton, for recent comments where she said that when nondiscrimination law and so-called "religious freedom" collide, religious views need to change.
"That's what she said," Bush snarked. "And I guess we should at least thank her for the warning."
"The next president needs to make it clear that great charities like Little Sisters of the Poor, need no federal instruction in doing the right thing," continued Bush, referencing the Florida-based charity that fought the Affordable Care Act's contraception provision.
"It comes own to a choice between the Little Sisters, and Big Brother," said Bush. "And I'm going with the Sisters."
Bush took a moment to acknowledge his own brother -- and father -- both former presidents, noting that he met his first president on the day he was born, and met his second on the day he came home from the hospital.
After a brief message in Spanish touting the shared, noble goals of the United States and the universal desire to see one's children succeed, Bush wrapped up his speech.
"I will campaign as I would serve, going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues head-on," he said.
"I will take nothing and no one for granted," Bush concluded. "I will run with heart, and I will run to win."
Bush, who has taken pains to paint himself as a more moderate Republican among a crowded field of far-right candidates, nonetheless takes the dominant GOP position when it comes to marriage equality.
After beginning the year calling for "respect for the rule of law" regarding marriage equality, last month Bush made it clear where he stands on the issue, though he confused some facts about the recent Supreme Court hearing on the issue to get there.
"Irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling, because they are going to decide whatever they decide," Bush told the Christian Broadcasting Network in May
. "We need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage. ... We have to restore committed, loving family life with a mom and dad loving their children with their heart and soul."
In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign harshly criticized Bush, noting he "pointedly refused to say if he would consider a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality final and decline efforts to reverse it."
"Given that he's launching his campaign on the cusp of this historic Supreme Court decision, Gov. Bush should explain to the six-in-ten voters who support marriage equality whether he would consider a ruling final," said JoDee Winterhof, HRC vice president for policy and political affairs. "If Jeb Bush continues to duck a simple question about the Supreme Court and refuses to say if he will appoint judges who are committed to ensuring LGBT people have the same rights as everyone else, he's putting himself at odds with the majority of Americans he hopes to 'lead.'"
In that same interview with CBN, Bush defended so-called right to discriminate legislation, saying he supports the rights of antigay business owners to refuse to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples if doing so would violate the business owner's religious beliefs. During the nationwide uproar over Indiana and Arkansas's Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, which detractors said gave businesses a license to discriminate, Bush defended Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, saying that "we're going to need this" type of law to "allow for people of faith to be able to exercise [their beliefs]."
But Bush isn't entirely isolated from LGBT Americans -- in fact, his campaign spokesman is a gay Republican. Tim Miller cofounded the conservative political action committee, America Rising super PAC, and has been serving as a senior adviser to Bush's Right to Rise PAC since February. Miller, considered one of the most prominent gay Republicans in Washington politics, has worked on numerous GOP campaigns, including John McCain's in 2008 and Jon Huntsman's in 2012, followed by Mitt Romney's campaign that year.