Florida’s leading LGBT organization, Equality Florida, has rightfully praised Charlie Crist (I-FL) for suddenly embracing a wide array of LGBT equality measures, but it’s probably worth pointing out that his conversion comes out of political necessity, not any kind of policy realization. In fact when Crist was running for Governor and for Senator as a Republican, he opposed almost every measure he now supports. Consider the following:
CRIST ON FLORIDA’S GAY ADOPTION BAN:
2010: “That is why I oppose Florida’s current law that requires Family Law judges to ignore what is right for a child in order to adhere to what Florida law blindly demands.”
2006: “Charlie Crist also believes that children are best raised in a traditional family. Accordingly, he does not support repealing the ban on adoption by same-sex couples.”
CRIST ON EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION:
2010: “I support strong anti-discrimination laws including ENDA. Employment and advancement should be based on skill and merit, not hindered by prejudice of any kind.
2006: “Charlie Crist does not support including sexual orientation within anti-discrimination laws…Charlie Crist opposes giving sexual orientation status equivalent to those currently covered under existing civil rights laws. “
CRIST ON CIVIL UNIONS:
2010: “I believe civil unions that provide the full range of legal protections should be available to gay couples. That includes access to a loved one in the hospital, inheritance rights, the fundamental things people need to take care of their families.”
2006: “Charlie Crist does not believe that the government or private industry should be required to provide health insurance benefits to same sex partners of employees or contractors.”
2008: Opposed civil unions when he supported The Florida Marriage Amendment, or Proposition 2. It said: “This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
CRIST ON DON’T ASK, DONT’ TELL:
2010: “I’m a strong supporter of the men and women of our military. Those willing to risk their lives to defend our country should not be compelled to lie to do so.”
MAY 2010: “I think the current policy has worked pretty well for America. I really do. So I don’t know why there’s any need for change at this time.”
Again, Crist’s progress speaks to the success of LGBT activism in bringing these policies into mainstream and hints to the positions all candidates will have to take in future elections. But the reason for Crist’s evolution should not escape scrutiny. Crist changed his positions to lure moderate and independent voters away from Democratic challenger Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL). And now, both men have almost identical positions on LGBT rights, with Crist still hanging on to his support for a state-based same-sex marriage ban. Ideally, of course, Crist’s move to the left would push Meek to embrace full marriage equality — a position that 41% of Floridans already hold (and increase of 15 percentage points from the mid 1990s). But I suspect that LGBT voters will have to wait two if not four more years for that issue to enter the mainstream.