Gov. Jeb Bush’s gay marriage views scrutinized

As former Governor Jeb Bush eyes a run for President of the United States, his record on gay marriage is coming under some scrutiny. He has always been a proponent of traditional marriage, but The Miami Herald has an article today reporting a certain ambivalence in his some of his public pronouncements:

As governor, he was against same-sex marriage but wasn’t publicly enthusiastic about the successful 2008 campaign to rewrite the Florida Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Bush, who left office in 2007, said the change wasn’t needed, since state law already restricted marriage to heterosexual couples. Two years ago, he suggested in a PBS interview that gay parents could be held up as role models, even as he said “traditional marriage is what should be sanctioned” by the government.

In the 2012 interview, Bush told Charlie Rose that “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 an example to others, because we need it.” In a speech to a Republican group last year, Bush warned against being a party seen as against too many things, including being “anti-gay.”

I am not saying that Gov. Bush has changed his views on marriage. I am merely noting that his views are a shift from conservative candidates that have preceded him. And his states-rights approach certainly doesn’t agree with previous GOP platforms that call for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. To be fair, he has not been the only conservative over the years who has favored leaving the matter to the states.

You can read the rest of the article to get the rest of the context. I’m simply flagging the article here because I think that it is an early indicator of a shift that is taking place within the Republican Party. In 2012, I predicted that Mitt Romney would be the last Republican Nominee for President to support traditional marriage and oppose legal gay marriage. I said that because I believed that by 2016 opposing legal gay marriage would be politically untenable for any candidate running on a national ticket.

This is a problem for the GOP because a significant portion of the GOP base still feels pretty strongly about traditional marriage. So whoever wins the nomination is going to have to figure how to do two things at once. Communicate to the base that he cares about their concerns while not alienating the people that he needs to vote for him in the general election. This is a tall order because there is very little room for a middle-position on this issue.

I’m sure some will do as Bush has done and say that the decision should be left to the states. That appeals to the states-rights impulses of conservatives and libertarians. But I doubt that argument will withstand scrutiny for very long. As the The Miami Herald Reports, that approach will be spun as allowing states to suppress fundamental human rights. Again, such a position risks alienating voters in the general election. That is why many Republicans would like for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of gay marriage to remove it as an issue for 2016. They may very well get their wish this summer.

The other option is for candidates to stand on principle and not on political calculation. That would be my preference, but I’m not holding my breath for that one.


  • dr. james willingham

    Denny: While you seem perceptive about the political realities apparently coming to pass, I would like to ask you this question: “What are Christians to do, when the schools are educating their children that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle?” They are even doing role model practices (read sensitivity training) wherein children play the role of a gay or lesbian person in school classes. This, I understand has taken place in some schools,. at least, in Massachusetts. And in England, I understand they have ordered that Catholic schools teach that homosexuality is not immoral, etc. Soon, believers will not be able to secure employment, etc., simply due to their views on the issue.

  • Dal Bailey

    I doubt any political hack would now dare to oppose gay marriage. It’s not surprising, that they get what they demand, then they turn around and try to deny others their freedom to choose demanding we accept their conditions or be labeled as “Anti”

  • buddyglass

    I doubt any of the Republicans will go on record as supporting s.s.m. It would be suicide in the primary. All but Cruz (& Huckabee if he runs) will voice personal opposition but say it’s a matter for each state to decide. They’ll probably complain about judicial activism some, then try to avoid talking about it altogether. Cruz, on the other hand, will talk about it loudly and often.

  • brian darby

    {In the 2012 interview, Bush told Charlie Rose that “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 an example to others, because we need it.” In a speech to a Republican group last year, Bush warned against being a party seen as against too many things, including being “anti-gay.”}

    Why would this be a problem? Let the states work it out, I mean some conservative Christians seem to hold to that solution. Dr. Burk or any other knowledgeable Christian, I am not knowledgeable about the bible, and by your definitions of Christian from what I have read here I am not a Christian. I have read through the bible about 20+times and listened to it, as my sight went bad on audio about the same amount of time. I am hard pressed to find a standard “traditional marriage” model of one wife one husband or one man one woman for life. Is there any of those in the OT or NT. I came up with a few, I think Adam and Eve, their children married their siblings for many generations so I dont really count them. Then maybe Noah, His Wife and the three children and their wives. Sort of the same issue with brother sister first cousin marriage must have gone on for a few generations. So I dont think that is considered “traditional” as that is often used against gay marriage of brother sister close family marriage.

    Not so much with the patriarchs or some of the prophets. Maybe Ruth, Moses etc. In the NT I think the Apostles are good examples though they did leave for what seems to be long periods of time leaving the wife and family to somewhat fend for themselves. Mary and Joseph but Joseph had direct revelation for their marriage. I cant seem to find some that seem to fit the bill for what I see the Evangelical / traditional group as a good example. I worded this very poorly but I hope you get my question, thank you.

      • buddyglass

        Toddlers and people in comas aren’t especially good examples in support of your point. That doesn’t necessarily invalidate your point; but they’re still not good examples.

        Unconscious people could get married but for the fact that they’re unable to consent and marriage requires the consent of both parties.

        Same problem with toddlers: can’t give meaningful consent. That and the fact that they’re under the legal guardianship of someone else. State laws recognize this authority by allowing minors to marry only with the permission of their parents.

        It’s perhaps also worth noting that Warren, writing for the majority, concluded the Loving decision with this:

        The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.
        Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.

        Same-sex marriage obviously isn’t “fundamental to our survival”, but neither does it seem as if Warren meant to predicate marriage’s status as a “right” on it being “fundamental for survival”.

      • Curt Day

        Who says? Voting is a right but one must reach a certain to be eligible. In addition, marriage is a part of the pursuit of happiness– remember the Declaration Of Independence

        • Esther O'Reilly

          I’m taking “basic human right” to mean, literally, a basic human right. As in there could never be any circumstance, for any person at any time, under which it is just to withhold this thing from a person. If that’s not what you meant, your language should be clearer.

          Also, I don’t regard the Declaration of Independence as a legal document. I regard it as a nice, sweeping bit of rhetoric, written by Thomas Jefferson in a white heat of inspiration and more than a bit of put-out-ness at old King George, which should not be taken as gospel. In point of fact, it would make rotten law. If we granted everybody the right to “pursue their happiness” at will, the result would be an unmitigated disaster. I’m sure even you could think of circumstances where you’d draw some kind of a line.

            • Esther O'Reilly

              First, I would distinguish between rights that can’t and shouldn’t be taken away under any circumstances and rights that men are born with but could forfeit. So life and liberty are two examples of basic rights that innocent people have but could forfeit by a crime worthy of death or imprisonment (thus becoming guilty instead of innocent). However, those are the only possible circumstances under which I believe a person could forfeit those rights. Abortion, euthanasia, and other such acts universally violate the right to life. And even for a criminal, he has a right to be executed by the state, not killed in a vigilante manner.

              Also, the second amendment contains an implicit assumption that the people bearing arms haven’t forfeited that right by plotting treason, exhibiting signs of insanity, or something of that nature.

              The rest of the Bill of Rights are all rights that I would say nobody could forfeit, even the vilest of criminals. So even if the police suspect somebody of being a criminal, they have no right to search his house without a warrant. And even if a criminal is convicted, the government has no right to torture him or execute him in a “cruel and unusual” way.

              There are also a couple of things which we can observe by the natural light but which aren’t explicitly addressed in either the Bill of Rights or the Declaration. For example, human beings are sacred, so they cannot forfeit the right not to be bought and sold as property. Again, this would apply even to vile criminals. By extension, nobody has the right to sell a person’s organs on the black market (which is actually done in parts of the world).

            • Esther O'Reilly

              To amend my last comment slightly, I would add the circumstance of insanity to conditions under which a person could forfeit the right to liberty (where it’s so extreme that he needs to be locked up as a danger to society). Of course, this is beyond the person’s power, so it’s an exception to the “guilty of a crime” rule.

          • Curt Day

            First, basic human rights exist in a secular society. We can’t generalize the rights and conditions in the Church to society. Society consists of both Christians and nonChristians. Provided that we have the participation of consenting adults, why, considering the Declaration of Independence and one of its basic tenets, marriage to the partner of one’s choice is not a basic human right is mystery.

            That you don’t consider the Declaration of Independence to be a legal document is irrelevant. Rights are not always recognized by law and what is lawful is not always what is moral. We don’t have to go to the horrors of Nazi Germany to prove these points. Instead, all we have to do is go to the treatment of nonWhites by version 1.0 of our Constitution or look at the horrors from our nation’s own history to prove both points.

            We should also take note of the rebellion that serves as the context for the writing of our Constitution. It was Shays Rebellion, not the American Revolution, that helped provide the impetus for the writing of our Constitution. Along with other documents, the historical context for our Constitution is one where those with wealth and power were seeking to form a government that would better protect their interests first. Remember that the Bill Of Rights was not part of version 1.0 of our Constitution. It was added later because of populism.

            • Johnny Mason

              “Provided that we have the participation of consenting adults, why, considering the Declaration of Independence and one of its basic tenets, marriage to the partner of one’s choice is not a basic human right is mystery.”

              So then it is a basic human right to marry your sister? Or your mother? Or multiple partners?

                • Johnny Mason

                  First, you didnt answer my question, which is telling.

                  Second, if the reasoning is “marriage to the partner of one’s choice is a basic human right” (your argument), then there is no difference, and that is the point.

                  If marriage between consenting adults is a basic human right, then any law prohibiting incestuous marriage or plural marriage would be a violation of those rights.

  • Esther O'Reilly

    I know that there are rights which aren’t “fundamental to one’s survival.” The right to a trial by jury, for example. The right to face one’s accusers in court. In short, all the actual legal rights in the constitution. Marriage, like getting a drivers’ license, voting, or being allowed to drink alcohol, does not fall in that category. There are certain groups (or pairings) of people who are excluded from it by definition.

    My simple point was that a “right” is something every American citizen would be entitled to regardless of age, race or gender. For that purpose, my analogy worked perfectly.

    • buddyglass

      Define “basic right”. Consider the text of the Declaration of Independence. (Noting that it’s not a legal document on par with the U.S. Constitution.)

        • buddyglass

          So you disagree with its authors, then, who argued that life, liberty, and the “pursuit of happiness” are among those unalienable rights with which men are endowed by their Creator?

          Just want to be clear on that. It seems that you and the Declaration’s authors define “unalienable right” differently. They inject some nuance. The committee wasn’t unfamiliar with the need to imprison and/or execute criminals, and yet they still argued that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are unalienable rights.

          • Esther O'Reilly

            Yes, I do disagree with Jefferson. The “pursuit of happiness” is the most obviously false. What chaos would ensue if we suddenly decided everyone had the inalienable right to pursue his own happiness! Life and liberty are also certainly not inalienable. It’s the word “inalienable” that’s creating most of the problem. If we removed that word, then I might agree that life (for example) is a right with which men are endowed by God at their conception. That is, before they commit a crime which forfeits it.

            As I explained earlier in this thread, I think the Declaration is very fine rhetoric, but rhetoric nonetheless. It’s a much less considered document than the Constitution. And yes, I do think Thomas Jefferson was getting carried away in his own rhetoric. It’s actually the exact opposite of a nuanced document, because it doesn’t bother to make any distinctions or define any of its terms. It couldn’t and shouldn’t form any kind of legal basis for a civilized society.

            • buddyglass

              For what it’s worth you’re not just disagreeing with Jefferson. Franklin and Adams made edits, more edits came after it was presented to the continental congress, then it was approved by that body and signed by John Hancock. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, but it’s not accurate to reduce the set of folks with whom you disagree to only Jefferson.

    • Curt Day

      Are you saying there are no rights? And if so, then are you saying that we must get permission for everything we do?

      That the death penalty as a punishment for certain crimes does not violate the idea of having rights. This is especially true when we remember that the crimes that would merit the death penalty revolve around an individual person’s choice to violate someone else’s right to live.

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