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On same-sex marriage, former Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush describes himself “as more like the Pope” than his brother, former President George W. Bush. In a brief, 69-word statement, the probable presidential contender has aligned himself with his Catholic faith and distanced himself from his Republican base of support.
On Monday the Sunshine State became the 36th state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. The state began issuing licenses yesterday at midnight, with Miami leading the way 24 hours before the rest of Florida.
The decision for Miami-Dade County was issued by Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel. She lifted a stay on an earlier decision in which she had found Florida’s ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional under the law.
Following her decision, Judge Zabel presided over same-sex marriage ceremonies of two Florida couples. These public services were reported on by a multitude of media.
Not all of Florida will be performing marriage ceremonies. In more conservative parts of the state, all wedding ceremonies will no longer be conducted in courthouses. This is in response to the prospect of being required to perform same-sex marriages.
Florida sits in the Deep South and has historically been one of the more conservative states in the U.S. In surrounding states, gay marriage bans remain unchanged. In the 1970s Anita Bryant, spokesperson for Florida orange juice and a former beauty pageant queen, campaigned widely against gay rights. For more than a decade, her name became synonymous with anti-gay rhetoric.
For this reason, the recent statement on same-sex marriage by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, identifying himself as being “like the Pope” is a surprise to many. According to some accounts, he has changed his rhetoric and is now focused in a “kinder, gentler,” and more open way towards his potential constituents. He said:
In including the word sacrament, Bush is appealing to those who hold close to the Catholic faith. He is using the word inclusively and at the same time, he has to be careful not to alienate potential evangelical constituents. By using the term “regardless of our disagreements” and talking about “respect” for the law and for people on both sides of the issue, he is saying that he will not pick sides.
Jeb Bush’s statement is timed in accordance with his prospective run for the presidency in 2016. His recent announcement of creating a Political Action Committee (PAC) is considered a very big move, allowing him to be on the campaign trail without announcing candidacy.
Former Governor Bush’s statement on same-sex marriage in Florida is a step away from the more stringent tone he used in the past. It was not a full departure, however, as use of the word “respect” served to many as a reminder of his past opposition to gays and lesbians seeking matrimony.
With Florida joining the other 35 states that legalize same-sex marriage, now 70 percent of Americans live in states that allow such unions. According to the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, this number is double that of one year ago.
Whether former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is reacting to the recent same-sex marriage rulings or being proactive in a bid for the presidency, his statement that he is more “like the Pope” has gotten the attention of the nation. His moderate statement does not refer, as in the past, to sodomy or “special legal protection,” but instead to respect. By speaking of “a culture of respect,” he is appealing to those who follow Pope Francis and to those who value the Pope’s open embrace of the masses.
By Fern Remedi-Brown