Jeb Bush in the Early Phase of His Presidential Run Comes Out with a Cowardly Approach to Gay Marriage

Listen to the Beltway chattering class, and you could be forgiven for forming the impression that Jeb Bush will be the courageous centrist in the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential field. He’s the guy who will absolutely refuse to pander to the party’s rabid right-wing base, rising or falling without backing down from his heretical positions on issues like education and immigration reform. Of course, the meme of Bush the Moderate conveniently glides over his thoroughly conservative views on issues like abortion, taxes, climate change, and government regulation; that he is considered a centrist says far more about the ever-rightward march of the Obama-era GOP than it does about Bush’s worldview.

On Sunday, Bush offered further evidence that he’s hardly a moderate, criticizing a recent federal court decision to allow marriage equality in Florida, where Bush was governor from 1999 to 2007. Echoing previous comments, Bush essentially argued that same-sex couples’ rights should be contingent on where they live.

“It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision,” Bush said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”

While Bush, who says he personally backs “traditional marriage,” is perfectly fine with a state of affairs in which same-sex couples’ rights are jeopardized as they travel from one state to another, his position represents a softer line than that taken by his brother. As president, George W. Bush endorsed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which would have invalidated state laws allowing gay couples to wed.

Even as they diverge in their respective approaches to the issue, however, the Bush brothers agree on one fundamental point: marriage should be restricted to straights only. That view appears to separate them from their 90-year-old father. In 2013, former President George H. W. Bush served as a witness at a same-sex wedding in Maine.

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