Likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush says marriage should be a state decision

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush AP

Jeb BushAP

Jeb Bush

MIAMI — As he considers running for president, former governor Jeb Bush is not offering supportive words about same-sex marriages coming to the state of Florida.

“It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision,” Bush told the Miami Herald on Sunday. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”

On Monday, Bush issued a follow-up statement, saying “We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.”

He called for respect for those on both sides of the issue, including committed gay couples and “those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

Bush’s comments are in line with past statements, but with same-sex marriage set to become legal in Florida on Tuesday, his remarks are sure to bring attention to his guarded approach to gay rights by both supporters and opponents of marriage equality.

As governor, he was against same-sex marriage but wasn’t publicly enthusiastic about the successful 2008 campaign to rewrite the Florida Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Bush, who left office in 2007, said the change wasn’t needed, since state law already restricted marriage to heterosexual couples. Two years ago, he suggested in a PBS interview that gay parents could be held up as role models, even as he said “traditional marriage is what should be sanctioned” by the government.

In a speech to a Republican group last year, Bush warned against being a party seen as against too many things, including being “anti-gay.”

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Last week, Bush resigned all of his board memberships — both nonprofit and business — in a move that helps clear a path toward a 2016 presidential campaign. It’s a continuation of a process that began earlier in the month when Bush announced plans to actively explore a White House bid.

The son of one president and brother of another, Bush is considered the early favorite of the Republican establishment, but is sure to face resistance from voters about sending a third member of the Bush family to the White House.

Even his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, while recently more supportive, said in 2013 that “we’ve had enough Bushes.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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