Despite his reputation for being an ardent opponent of LGBT rights and supporter of a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, former President George W. Bush sought to officiate at a lesbian wedding in 2013, according to a recent report in the Boston Globe.
The article, published on Saturday, is about a newly constructed $1.4 million home intended for likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush at the Bush family compound on Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, Maine. The construction of the home was initiated by Jeb Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, and mother, former first lady Barbara Bush.
Embedded in the article is a paragraph about how when visiting Kennebunkport, Jeb Bush sometimes visits H.B. Provisions, a general store owned by lesbian couple Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, who married in 2013.
As was widely reported previously, the Boston Globe notes that former President George H.W. Bush made headlines when he attended their wedding in 2013. According to reports at the time, George H.W. Bush served as a witness at the wedding.
But the article also reports something that has previously been undisclosed in the media: former President George W. Bush “offered to perform the ceremony but had a scheduling conflict.”
Some mornings, Bush drops into H.B. Provisions, a cozy general store owned by Bonnie Clement and her wife, Helen Thorgalsen (George H.W. Bush made international headlines when he attended their wedding in 2013; George W. Bush offered to perform the ceremony but had a scheduling conflict).
Contacted by the Washington Blade about the article, Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser replied, “I’ll pretty much let the piece speak for itself on this one.”
The reported willingness of Bush to officiate at the ceremony is at odds with his stated position as president, when he supported a Federal Marriage Amendment to bar same-sex marriage after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples in the Bay State have a constitutional right to marry.
George W. Bush made his strongest case for a Federal Marriage Amendment during his State of the Union address in 2004, just months before he would win re-election to the White House by making opposition to same-sex marriage a major component of his presidential campaign.
“Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives,” George W. Bush said at the time. “On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”
Of course, under George W. Bush’s vision for a Federal Marriage Amendment, same-sex couples would still be able to have commitment ceremonies over which the former president could officiate. The unions just wouldn’t be legally binding.
In her 2010 book “Spoken from the Heart,” former first lady Laura Bush, the wife of George W. Bush, said she warned him not to make same-sex marriage an issue in his re-election campaign, citing “a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay.”
“In 2004 the social question that animated the campaign was gay marriage,” Laura Bush wrote. “Before the election season had unfolded, I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.”
Freddy Ford, a spokesperson for George W. Bush, didn’t deny the report, but said the president has no recollection of offering to perform a same-sex wedding.
“President Bush is indeed friends with Bonnie and Helen, but he doesn’t recall making such an offer,” Ford said.
In response to the statement from the Bush spokesperson, the Globe’s Viser told the Blade he stands by his initial report.
The Blade also contacted H.B. Provisions in Kennebunkport regarding the Boston Globe article. Before hanging up, someone who answered the phone replied, “There’s no story there. There’s nothing to tell. Please just leave me alone.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said the reported willingness of George W. Bush to officiate at a same-sex wedding is significant.
“If true, that means all living former presidents support marriage equality with the one and only remaining exception being Democrat President Jimmy Carter,” Angelo said.
Carter has expressed support for same-sex marriage, but, after once saying it should be a nationwide right, told a local TV outlet in October 2014 the issue should be left to the states and “if Texas doesn’t want to have gay marriage, then I think that’s a right for Texas people to decide.”
It remains to be seen whether George W. Bush’s reported willingness to officiate at a same-sex wedding will impact the potential presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.
Last week, the likely 2016 candidate said ahead of a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling there’s no constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Additionally, Jeb Bush said support for “traditional marriage” — code for social conservatives to mean opposition to same-sex marriage — is a “core American value” and important to ensure children born in poverty have a chance to succeed. A spokesperson for Jeb Bush couldn’t be reached for comment in time for this posting.