Expected 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush (R) endorsed anti-gay discrimination this weekend in an interview with David Brody of Christian Broadcast News.
After Bush explained that people of faith need “the space to act on their conscience,” Brody asked him about wedding vendors like bakers and florists who may not want to provide a service for a same-sex couple’s wedding. “Are you okay if they don’t provide those kinds of services? Is that okay?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” Bush responded, “if it’s based on a religious belief.” He went on to cite Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman as “the best example” of this conflict, suggesting that the woman who faces a $1,001 fine for not serving a same-sex couple “may lose her business because of this and has lost a lot because of the cost of all this.”
“A big country — a tolerant country — ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation and forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs. We should be able to figure this out. This shouldn’t be this complicated, but gosh it is right now.”
In the same interview, Bush also admitted that he does not believe there is any constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, adding the caveat that he is not a lawyer. “It’s thousands of years of culture and history is just being changed at warps speed. It’s hard to fathom why it is this way.” He added that he thinks “we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage” to protect “children born in poverty,” referencing his recent support for the idea that marriage helps combat poverty.
This is the clearest Bush has been on these issues. He previously expressed support for Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” but didn’t so blatantly state that discrimination against same-sex couples is “absolutely” okay. He’s also sounded somewhat moderate on same-sex marriage, suggesting at least that loving same-sex parents could be a model for other families.
Bush’s comments indicate that he believes that refusing to serve a same-sex couple for religious reasons is somehow not discrimination. But as Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom explained in his ruling against Stutzman, “No Court has ever held that religiously motivated conduct, expressive or otherwise, trumps state discrimination law in public accommodations.” He also dismissed any attempt to distinguish between the act of a marrying and the identity of sexual orientation: “The United States Supreme Court has long held that discrimination based on conduct associated with a protected characteristic constitutes discrimination on the basis of that characteristic.”
Brody’s interaction with Bush in the interview indicated that he shares the presumed candidate’s positions on these issues, and in his analysis, Brody addressed the idea that some conservatives perceive Bush as a “squishy moderate.” Bush “isn’t going to be the fire and brimstone candidate that goes for the applause lines or starts talking about Jesus at campaign events,” but his record as governor of Florida “reads like a social conservative’s dream scorecard.”