Jeb Bush’s “New Way” Of Talking About Gay Marriage

Just a few months ago, Jeb Bush was being hailed as the GOP presidential candidate who would change how Republicans talk about gay marriage in 2016. “Has Jeb Bush offered the Republican Party a new way to talk about same-sex marriage?” the Washington Post asked in January. “Bush said people should accept court rulings that legalize same-sex marriage and ‘show respect’ for gays in committed relationships, while reiterating his long-held belief that ‘marriage is a sacrament'”—a message the Post declared “more welcoming” than that of the old GOP.

But this month Bush appears to have had a change of heart. After receiving plaudits from influential conservatives for his speech on religious freedom at Liberty University’s commencement last week, he took some heat not using the occasion to mention same-sex marriage. At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher warned that Bush “can’t avoid forever the greatest threat to religious freedom in our present moment: the advance of gay rights.”

The writer Eric Metaxas, fresh off an appearance on the topic at Fox and Friends, said on his podcast last Monday, “I was glad Jeb Bush brought up religious liberty, but I wish he had spoken about same-sex marriage. I wish he had been a little bit more willing to throw that out there because nobody can get the GOP nomination unless they deal with this head on, because people are really, really scared.”

What are they scared of, exactly? Cultural change, and more. According to Metaxas, being forced to provide services to same-sex weddings, like flowers and cakes. According to Dreher, the loss of tax-exempt status for religious non-profits who oppose marriage equality—a prospect legal experts believe is unlikely.

“I know that Republican candidates get extremely squeamish when talking about anything to do with homosexuality,” Dreher went on. (When he says “squeamish,” he appears to mean the candidates are too apprehensive to express the conservative view, which goes against the tide of public opinion, not that they are squeamish about talking about homosexuality. Which they may well also be.)  “[W]hat do Republican candidates plan to do to protect religious liberty in this new legal environment for gay rights?” Dreher demanded. “It’s not enough to mouth pro-religious platitudes. Conservatives must expect more.”

Six days later, Bush was on camera with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, whose television program and blog The Brody File offer Republican candidates a safe space to field easy questions tailored for a primary voter with doubts about the candidate’s ideological purity. When Brody asked him about same-sex marriage, Bush punctuated his opinion that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage with the disclaimer, “I’m not a lawyer.”

But what to do if the Court rules that there is such a constitutional right? “Irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling,” he said, “we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.”

That’s not an answer, exactly. Sure, conservatives want to hear there will still be “stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.” But that’s just pabulum, and worse, it’s so 2012! In 2016, they’re looking for the candidates to describe how to protect them in the brave new world of two-bride wedding cakes. “This is not about serving a cupcake to someone who’s gay, of course you have to do that, obviously,” Brody offered. “This is more about the vendor issue as it relates to do they want to provide a service for same-sex weddings. Are you okay if they don’t provide those types of services? Is that okay?”

“Absolutely,” Bush replied, segueing to the case of Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington State florist who has become a conservative cause célèbre. “She had a regular customer who came in and she would provide flowers to him, and he was going to marry his significant other,” said Bush. “Asked her to participate as a friend in the wedding, to help organize it. And she thought about it, and said, look, I love you, you’re my friend, but I can’t participate. It goes against my conscience.”

Of course Bush isn’t a lawyer, so he may not be aware that many states, including Washington, have laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation. As he and Brody noted, the baker must serve a gay man a cupcake. Bush, who’s not a lawyer, may not have read the court opinion in the Stutzman case, which describes how Stutzman herself recalled the exchange with her customer, Robert Ingersoll, about the flowers for his wedding.

According to the trial court’s decision, finding that Stutzman had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, Stutzman testified in her deposition that Ingersoll “came in and we were just chitchatting and he said that he was going to get married. Wanted something really simple, khaki I believe he said. And I just put my hands on his and told him that because of my relationship with Jesus Christ I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t do his wedding.” In other words, Ingersoll didn’t ask Stutzman to “help organize” his wedding, nor did Stutzman tell him she loved him. He asked her to provide flowers, and she said she wouldn’t. (The Stutzman case is on appeal, after she rejected a settlement offer from the state’s attorney general to pay a $2,000 fine and agree not to discriminate against same-sex couples in the future.)

Bush, looking ahead to the general election, may have wanted to avoid talking about same-sex marriage altogether. But now that he has bowed to the religious base’s demand that he take a stand, he is going to be stuck with it.

  • petemontdc

    It is really going to be fascinating to watch GOP officials figure out what they’re going to include in the GOP platform about LGBT people and equality. Certainly they’ll put lots of “religious liberty” language in there, but what will they say about discrimination, marriage equality, etc?

  • Jim Reed

    Before getting into these harder, more technical issues, I think Bush is not finished with Iraq yet. He thinks Bush made the right decision with the evidence he had, but the real question should be would Jeb lie us into Iraq with an administration that is faking evidence? The Bush administration certainly put a lot of effort into getting that war going. Would Jeb go down that path?

  • seashell

    It’s almost stunning to hear how much religious liberty is correlated with tax exemptions. So does this mean that the ‘principled’ stand against gay marriage in favor of ‘traditional’ opposite sex marriage will fade away as long as the tax exemptions stay in place? It’s worth it if it shoots down an arm of the culture wars.

    John Boehner has been heard saying “I’m not a scientist” lately when speaking of pipelines or global warning. Now here’s Jeb with “I’m not a lawyer” when speaking of same sex marriage. The important thing to remember is that they’re both conservative politicians, and facts wouldn’t matter anyway.

  • not_guilty

    The wellspring of the so-called religious right was not the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence; it was stripping Bob Jones University’s tax exempt status for its racial policies. The links between that movement and old time segregationists have gone unexamined for too long.

  • seashell

    Indeed. But I have alway thought Weyrich was more upset about the IRS stripping the tax exemptions from Bob Jones Univ. than the prospects of private schools having to integrate to keep them? Falwell was in uproar over both the IRS and school integration, but Weyrich was the mastermind. In any event, they not only mobilized and politicized evangelicals around abortion, they also managed to blame Jimmy Carter for the IRS interventions, when they both knew it was Nixon that started them.

  • j_handey

    Rod Dreher is a walking psychology textbook – his most recent blog at the American Conservative has become a swamp of high-school snark, anti-gay apocalyptic, leering soft-core porn, and incessant whining about how his family did him wrong and how through the grace of Dante he learned how to deal with their unwillingness to embrace the finer things that Rod symbolized (to the point of writing 2 books – so far – in the How The World Wronged Rod Dreher series). So I’d take him more as a cautionary tale of where arrested psychological development at the stage of a bullied 14-year old trying to figure out his sexuality can lead to.

    It has been noted that he’s got a patron (like more and more conservatives these days seem to) – Howard Ahmanson, who also was the patron of a gentleman named Rushdoony, the father of Christian Dominionism. That might explain the mystery of how Rod’s managed to fail upwards over the past few years with seemingly no consequences – it might also explain his increasing stridency over the past few months. He’s playing for his master, not necessarily for the public.

  • j_handey

    It should also be noted that Rod’s newest obsession – the “Benedict Option” (based on the final pages of Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue”, which Rod has given no indication of having read the rest of the book) has gone into overdrive specifically because of, as Rod has put it, the “Indiana apocalypse”. Rod’s very coy on what he expects to happen to traditionalist Christians (even though Rod’s theology is barely Christian at this point – it’s basically “The Church of Masculinity and Femininity”, with Jesus hardly mentioned and Satan being homosexuality in general) – it’s alternately the French Revolution and getting bad performance reviews at an office job, depending on how Rod feels that day. Nobody has been able to nail him down on what exactly he thinks is going to happen, or how exactly his religious liberty will be infringed.

  • red_pills

    It’s startling to me to see the likes of Rod Dreher openly and actively advocating the curtailing of the legal rights of a subpopulation in the United States—demanding discrimination, as it were—and so many so-called “Americans” (not here, clearly) are just copacetic with that. It’s highly instructive of where conservatism is at this hour.

    And this is to say nothing of the denial of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. I expect Dreher is no fan of that particular addendum—or, at least, the manner in which activists and SCOTUS have applied it historically—but even so, it exists as a part of the supposedly sacrosanct Constitution. How dizzying to be caught up in so many fundamental contradictions at once!

  • fiona64

    It astonishes me that there are people who operate public accommodations and yet do not understand the laws under which they have agreed to operate same.

    It further astonishes me that people are looking for any excuse to be allowed to create a new Jim Crow state.

    This is all about people who are scared of losing their tiny bit of perceived hegemony.

  • Frank

    Stand up for your religious freedoms! If you don’t they will slowly be eroded away. Count on it.

    Anybody but Hilary.

  • Frank

    There already is marriage equality. Any man can marry a woman and any woman can marry a man.

  • Craptacular

    “Oh please the histrionic hyperbole is childish.” – Frank6548

  • Frank

    Kinda sad you keep trying that out at inappropriate times. Just proves how clueless you really are. Carry on!

  • gapaul

    “Squeamish.” That word says it all. I think they’re hung up on the sex thing. After all, I doubt they’re “squeamish” about delivering flowers for a synagogue wedding, or an atheist wedding at the local bed and breakfast. I doubt they’d even use the word “squeamish” to describe an all-out pagan affair. All these people are unlikely to share their views of marriage either — but they don’t make them “squeamish.”
    And if Dreher and Metaxas and all the rest continue with this hyperbolic “greatest threat” and “really, really scared” language, they will lose the support of the middle of the road crowd who might float them a “live and let live” pass — and be willing to let bakers and florists do whatever they want. But with all that’s wrong with the world, they just can’t oversell their issue, plenty of people with gay family members know this isn’t the end of civilization. They look and sound ridiculous.

  • gapaul

    I went looking for this but not sure I found it. Can you post a link to the blog post itself?

  • Frank

    In a couple generations people will see the ultimate failure of this social experiment of gay “marriage” and family.

  • red_pills

    Could I pain you, sir, to identify one religious freedom of yours that has been meaningfully threatened in recent memory? Are churches being shuttered by the state? Are Bibles being burned by the state?

    There appears to be a strong correlation between the evangelical meaning of “religious freedom” and the notion of codifying the precepts of a particular faith doctrine into civil law, that they may be foisted on citizens who do not belong to that faith community. Asserting the latter is not an articulation of religious freedom. It is, instead, a willful misreading of our national history and a step toward theocracy.

    Because I do not know you, I’ll extend to you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you do not define religious freedom in that way. I look forward to your example.

  • Frank

    Requiring anyone to participate in anything that is in contradiction to their faith is an assault on religious freedom. Now of course we have laws which all must follow and if you choose to break the law you also must choose to face the punishment.

  • red_pills

    Interesting, if rather broad. And now, the vital question: whose faith?

  • seashell

    Because I do not know you, I’ll extend to you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you do not define religious freedom in that way.

    Heads up! Frank is well known, as Frank and Frank 6548 and a couple of other user names, I think. He defines religious freedom in exactly the way you describe in the 2nd paragraph. Most of us don’t feed him.

  • red_pills

    I expected as much—I was trying to be civil. Still, your point is well taken, and much appreciated. Good day to all!

  • andrew123456789

    I read about their panic and just wonder if they’ll ever get a life.

  • andrew123456789

    The liberty you speak of is meager and undamaged. The liberty for two men or two women to marry each other is life-altering. How many times did you have to retake Freshman Composition?

  • Frank

    Anyone’s.

  • red_pills

    Ah, but there’s the problem, isn’t it? Faith is by no means a homogenous phenomenon, and no faith community is homogenous, either. That’s why we’ve had a long history of religious warfare in this species, and precisely why the authors of the Constitution refused to insert explicit religious ideas or language into that document.

    Let’s entertain a small hypothetical, and then I’ll thank you for your convivial engagement and be on my way. If we ensconce the values of a Christian sect—after all, evangelicals are quite high on the unhistorical argument that the founders were members of their particular community—we immediately run afoul of the religious values of another Christian sect (e.g., the fratricide ongoing among Presbyterians and Episcopalians) or a non-Christian faith community. Find me a southern Baptist willing to legislate Young Earth Creation instruction into high school biology classes, and I’ll show you a Methodist student whose religious freedom has now been infringed upon because she doesn’t believe in that hokum. Find me the Mormon Congressman who wants to pass a so-called “marriage amendment” to the Constitution, and I’ll find you a Wiccan whose beliefs entertain same-sex marriage without contradiction. That’s why it can’t work outside theocracy, sir. In a pluralistic society such as ours, the defense of your “religious freedom” by any state apparatus, no matter the size, will almost certainly infringe upon the free exercise of some other individual’s beliefs.

    It’s been a hoot. Back to work!

  • Frank

    My statements stand.

  • red_pills

    LOL! Okay, my man. Whatever you say. Take it easy.

  • Craptacular

    Which word did you not understand?

    histrionic: exaggerated dramatic behavior designed to attract attention

    hyperbole: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally

    childish: silly or immature

    “Stand up for your religious freedoms! If you don’t they will slowly be eroded away. Count on it.” – Frank

    Looks like an awesome fit! Glad I could break it down for you.

  • Frank

    Pitiful and it’s changes nothing.

    Stand up Christians. Remain silent now and more intrusive things will occur. Just ask the Germans.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    Please don’t feed the troll. Frank has been banned numerous times here for repeating the same points over and over and over again. He does it to piss people off and goad them into arguing. Logic has no place in a dialogue with him. It’s just wasted effort.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    “Aww how cute. Trying to play a grown up.” – Frank6548

  • Frank

    I am not so sure I would so publicly admit that you are so controlled by me, kinda like a puppet.

  • cmbennett01

    There is more to the conservative support for these issues than religious attitudes and hostility toward gays. They reject the idea that there is an implicit contract between the owner of a business and the public. The idea that the owner of a public accommodation has the responsibility to treat all equally regardless of their beliefs is a very liberal idea, and is not very popular among conservatives, especially those with libertarian leanings. This is why their reaction to civil rights legislation was pretty much the same as it is to questions of religion and sexuality. The refusal of vendors to provide services to people they don’t like is based on their hostility to homosexuality and their religious beliefs, but politicians support for them is based more on a political ideology that individuals have no responsibility to the greater society and to impose restrictions on their conduct is immoral.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    “Aww how cute. Clueless but cute.” – Frank6548

  • NavyBlues05

    Same sex relationships haven’t had a negative effect on families for generations. It wasn’t until some spurned and meddlesome suitors started screeching about their intendeds not conforming to the strict confines and mandates (and no excuses or exceptions) that paranoia set in with the public at large.
    Religion = to control the thought, dialogue, and behavior of the weak.

  • NavyBlues05

    Not every US citizen is of the Christian faith.
    What about their religious freedoms?

  • NavyBlues05

    I view Frank as the “Inartful Dodger”.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    please don’t feed the troll.

  • seashell

    …but politicians support for them is based more on a political ideology that individuals have no responsibility to the greater society and to impose restrictions on their conduct is immoral.

    The political support for vendors to discriminate is based on the politician’s dislike for LGBT people or because their political fortunes depend on their constituents believing they dislike LGBT people. I haven’t heard a single one claim what you wrote. As far as I know, even the guys at Cato haven’t trotted it out either. I could be wrong, where did you get this idea from?

    Millions of people were made more free by the government’s passage of the Civil Rights Act. And if the Supremes strike down the same sex marriage bans in the states, millions more people will again be more free. Now that’s moral.

  • Craptacular

    There already is religious freedom. Any person can attend any church they want.

  • Frank

    Ok you rest on that while the rest of us deal with the reality of eroding religious freedoms.

  • Frank

    Everyone should have the freedom of religion. What exactly is your point?

  • Frank

    Yes there have been no problems in families due to same sex attractions. Yeah…. None.

    See above and repeat.

  • cmbennett01

    I have never heard one of them say that there position is because of a dislike of LGBT people. While some of them are surely lying, the reason they give for their position. You apparently haven’t been listening to the republican presidential candidates. In fact Rand Paul is quite up front on why he opposes civil right legislation as well. I’m also not sure why you think you have to explain the Civil Rights Act to me or that same sex marriage bans are immoral.

  • Craptacular

    “Yes there have been no problems in families due to same sex attractions. Yeah…. None.” – Frank

    Using “causes problems in families” as the litmus test for what will endure, religion, which has split more families than homosexuality ever will, should have been eliminated from culture our a millennia ago. Any other nonsensical statements rattling around in your head I can help you with, Frank?

  • Craptacular

    Everyone does have freedom of religion. They can join whichever church they want.

  • Frank

    Yes and they have the right to practice it freely even in the public square.

  • Frank

    When you provide any intelligent assistance I will request more. Until then….

    And as usual my point flies right over your head.