One day before Florida began issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples, potential presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered a noncommittal statement about same sex marriage Sunday, saying it should be a “state decision” while reluctantly acknowledging that the courts overturned the state’s decision.
“It ought to be a local decision. I mean a state decision,” Bush told the Miami Herald. “The state decided. The people of the state decided, but it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”
The Democratic Party pounced, writing in a statement, “make no mistake about it: if Jeb Bush had his way, the progress for LGBT Floridians wouldn’t be happening.” They pointed to his past positions regarding same sex marriage during his time as Governor when he believed only in traditional marriage.
Bush’s ambiguous "I guess" statement – and the Democratic Party’s immediate response - highlights a Republican Party dilemma heading into the presidential political season.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in April of 2013 found that 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage compared to only 41 percent in 2010.
But Republican voters – the kind that will show up for the 2016 primaries – are less supportive. According to NBC News exit polls from the 2014 elections, just 31 percent of Republicans said they support gay marriage, compared to 72% of Democrats.
UPDATE: Bush released a formal statement Monday evening, declining to give his position on the issue but urging "respect" for the law and people "on all sides" of the issue.
"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can also 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," Bush said.
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- Leigh Ann Caldwell