Charlie Crist, Florida’s once (and future?) governor, posted a note earlier this month on his Facebook page congratulating two states for legalizing gay marriage.
"Some great news: On Tuesday, Delaware became the 11th state to allow marriage equality. And just a few days ago, Rhode Island adopted a similar measure, which followed victories last fall in Maine, Maryland and Washington. I most certainly support marriage equality in Florida and look forward to the day it happens here," he posted on Facebook on May 8, 2013.
That doesn’t sound like the Crist we’ve always known. He’s a former Republican who turned independent who turned Democrat. He backed John McCain in the 2008 presidential contest but last year endorsed Barack Obama’s re-election.
In other words, flip-flopping is in his past.
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At PolitiFact, we put politicians’ consistency on issues on our Flip-O-Meter, rating them from No Flip to Full Flop. The meter is not intended to pass judgment on their decisions to change their minds. It’s simply gaging whether they did.
So what’s the history of Crist’s position on same-sex marriage? Crist, who is believed to be planning another run for governor in his new party, “most certainly” supports it now. Let’s see whether he always has.
2006 governor’s race
Back when Crist was a "Ronald Reagan Republican," he led a field of GOP candidates vying to be governor. (He went on to win.) During that race, an effort was gaining steam to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot defining marriage as a union between “only one man and one woman.”
Early in the campaign, Crist said he thought such an amendment was unnecessary because state law already forbids gay marriage. But as the primary rolled on, Crist signed the petition for the ballot initiative and sent mailers declaring his support for traditional marriage.
By the time the measure went to voters in 2008, Crist was a popular governor whose more socially conservative election opponents were in his rear-view mirror. Crist made it clear he wouldn’t stump for the cause.
“It’s not an issue that moves me,” he said in late 2007, when it was clear the effort had enough signatures to get on the ballot. “I’m just a live and let live kind of guy.”
On Election Day 2008, Crist supported the ban. “I voted for it,” he said. “It’s what I believe in.” The measure passed with 62 percent of the vote.
2010 Senate run
When one of Florida’s U.S. senators decided not to seek re-election, Crist, who probably would have cruised to re-election as governor, pounced on the Washington opportunity. He ended up in a bare-knuckles battle that forced him to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent. He lost to Republican Marco Rubio.
During that campaign, he released a position paper on issues affecting gays and lesbians. There, he declared support for civil unions that “provide the full range of legal protections” including “access to a loved one in the hospital, inheritance rights, the fundamental things people need to take care of their families.” He also expressed support for anti-discrimination laws that protect gay people, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military and gay adoption. He did not mention same-sex marriage in the statement.
2014 run for ... ?
Crist’s exuberant Facebook post, which looks forward to “the day it happens” in Florida, certainly isn’t unique among Democrats this year. Notably, Florida’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson recently pledged his support for gay marriage.
And Crist, as a newly minted Democrat, has been under pressure from advocates for gay rights to “come to amends with LGBT Floridians.”
We’re considering whether Crist has flip-flopped on his position on gay marriage.
Looking back through his political career in Florida, we found that Crist’s opinion has traversed the spectrum. As a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006, Crist signed a petition to help get a gay marriage ban on the Florida ballot and said he supported “traditional marriage.”
While governor, he appeared to soften on the subject, saying he was a “live and let live” kind of person. But he voted for the ban nonetheless. As a Senate candidate, he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, saying he supported civil unions that afforded the legal benefits of marriage.
Now, out of office but potentially eyeing a comeback, Crist has made his flip-flop complete, offering full-throated support for gay marriage.
That’s what we call a Full Flop.