NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Despite a perception that he’s the most LGBT-friendly Republican in the field of potential presidential candidates, Jeb Bush said Friday he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.
On stage at the second day of the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, Bush was asked if his views had changed on same-sex marriage by conservative commentator Sean Hannity. The former Florida governor was succinct in his reply: “No. I believe in traditional marriage.”
The potential candidate — who once backed the efforts of his brother, former President George W. Bush, to pass a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country — made the comments before a conservative audience as he tried to play down his support for immigration reform and federal education standards under Common Core.
Media outlets, including the Washington Blade, have speculated Bush is taking a more LGBT-inclusive approach to his campaign compared to other Republicans. Upon news that marriage equality would soon come to Florida, Bush issued a statement that called for respect of the rule of law, but also religious liberty.
Bush has hired Tim Miller, a gay Republican communications specialist, as his point person for the press in his planned presidential campaign. According to a recent report in Buzzfeed, other members of Bush’s team include David Kochel, an Iowa Republican strategist who’s urged the party to become more pro-LGBT, and Mike Murphy, a GOP strategist who was among 113 Republicans that signed a legal brief before the Supreme Court against California’s Proposition 8.
In fact, the Buzzfeed article suggests Bush may have private evolved on the issue of same-sex marriage, quoting anonymous sources as saying they’ve come away with the impression “that on the question of marriage equality, he was supportive at best and agnostic at worst.”
But Bush’s potential campaign also showed signs of allegiance to anti-gay forces. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bush was set to meet this week with Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.
Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement a truly LGBT-inclusive candidate would support causes that benefit LGBT people like marriage equality.
“At the end of the day, it isn’t rhetoric or hiring practices that count, it’s what a candidate stands for,” Sainz said. “A candidate who is truly committed to LGBT equality will support marriage equality and support protecting all LGBT Americans from discrimination. While the tone of Jeb Bush’s language and word choice may have changed, he hasn’t yet articulated different policies from when he opposed marriage equality and opposed discrimination protections as governor. There are more questions than answers on where Bush stands today.”
Bush wasn’t the only potential Republican presidential candidate to voice on stage to same-sex marriage; Hannity asked that question to each of major speakers he interviewed on stage throughout the conference.
On Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said reiterated his well-known opposition to same-sex marriage, blasting “unelected judges” for overturning state prohibitions on gay nuptials. On the same day Bush spoke, Sen. March Rubio (R-Fla.) said his belief is marriage “is between one man and one woman.”