Former Florida governor Jeb Bush just wants everyone to respect each other's views on issues like marriage equality.
After facing criticism for his tepid statement Sunday that marriage equality should be decided on a state-by-state basis, the possible GOP presidential nominee attempted to clarify his stance in a statement to The New York Times Monday.
"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law," Bush, 61, told the Times via a spokesman Monday. "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."
Monday also marked the first day of legal same-sex marriage in Florida, beginning with Miami-Dade County, while the freedom to marry went statewide early Tuesday morning. With Florida now the 36th U.S. state with marriage equality (in addition to Washington, D.C.), the Human Rights Campaign reports that 70 percent of Americans now live in a state where residents can marry the person they love, regardless of gender.
As LGBT blogger David Badash noted at The New Civil Rights Movement, Bush's latest statements echo the type of "kinder, gentler" conservatism that Bush and his supporters hope to harness to carry a Republican to the White House in 2016.
"This is what voters will be subjected to for the next 22 months," writes Badash. "A candidate desperate to please and to be understood, taking up the people's time to get his message out over and over again, in different forms until someone applauds it."
But in his measured remarks, Bush still appears steadfast in his personal — and presumably political — opposition to marriage equality. His latest comments seem reminiscent of what he told Charlie Rose in a June 2012 interview:
"I don’t think people need to be discriminated against because they don’t share my belief on this, and if people love their children with all their heart and soul and that’s what they do and that’s how they organize their life that should be held up as examples for others to follow because we need it. We desperately need it and that can take all sorts of forms. It doesn't have to take the one that I think should be sanctioned under the law."
In 2006, then-Governor Bush signaled his support for a Florida constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, even though he had previously said such a ban was unnecessary as state law already forbade such unions, notes The Washington Post.
In his two terms as governor, Bush also opposed LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes laws, "dismantled Florida's affirmative action program," and referred to recent movements to secure civil rights for women, African-Americans, and LGBT people as "modern victim movements," according to OnTheIssues.org.
Ultimately, Florida's Amendment 2, which defined marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman, was passed with approval by nearly 62 percent of voters in 2008. Bush's gubernatorial term had ended the year before Amendment 2 was approved. Amendment 2 has been struck down by no less than six state and federal courts in the past year, since the U.S. Supreme Court dismantled the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.
Notably, Republican leaders in Florida have been eerily quiet as county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Miami Herald went so far as to call that silence "deafening."