In an extraordinary interview, Florida’s former Republican Governor Charlie Crist has apologized for having supported efforts to ban on same-sex marriage on the ballot in that state in 2008.
“I’m sorry I did that. It was a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive,” said Crist, in an interview with Watermark, an LGBT news organization in Florida.
Crist was the Republican governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. Crist is currently running for the Democratic nomination for governor, saying that his former political party “went nuts.”
But Watermark publisher Tom Dyer, who conducted the interview December 17, didn’t let Crist off the hook. He noted Crist also supported limiting marriage to heterosexual couples when Crist ran for senator in 2006 and that he expressed a belief that children who need to be adopted would be best off in “traditional” heterosexual homes.
“When you look back at the circumstances, one could come to the conclusion that your shifts in opinion were either politically expedient…” said Dyer.
“They were. They were. And it was wrong,” said Crist, interrupting. “That’s what I’m telling you. And I’m sorry.”
Nadine Smith, chief executive officer of Equality Florida, said she was “glad to see someone who has done harm publicly pledge to work to repair the damage.”
“My activism is based on the premise that people can and do change,” said Smith, who has been an LGBT activist for many years. “I’m particularly proud of Tom Dyer the publisher of Watermark for pulling no punches and really zeroing in on the issues. He asked the questions that needed to be asked and that we deserved to have publicly and thoroughly answered. I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard a politician say ‘I was wrong. I am sorry’.”
Crist told Dyer his earlier positions were “examples of me trying to be a good Republican.”
“I couldn’t do it anymore and I’m sorry I did,” said Crist. “I made a mistake. I’m not perfect…please don’t hold me to that standard. And I’m sincerely sorry. I understand when it’s necessary to say I was wrong.”
“Can you convince us that your present views aren’t once again driven by political expediency?” asked Dyer. “Can you convince us that the positions you’ve recently expressed are heartfelt, and something we can count on in the future?”
“I just did,” said Crist. “There will be doubters, and they have a right to that. But I ask that they have a little faith.” Crist likened his change of position on same-sex marriage to that of President Obama, who famously evolved from supporting only civil unions to supporting marriage for same-sex couples.
Crist said he has urged a state representative who is sponsoring a bill to create a domestic partnership registry in Florida to “go for marriage.”
A poll of 1,000 likely voters in late November showed Crist with a slight lead over incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott, but that lead has diminished over the past from, from a high of 16 points last March, to only four points in November.