Politics

Did Jeb Bush oppose same-sex marriage and gays adopting when he was Florida’s governor?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during a campaign event for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The event was held on Oct. 31, 2012, at the University of Miami in in Coral Gables.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during a campaign event for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The event was held on Oct. 31, 2012, at the University of Miami in in Coral Gables. El Nuevo Herald

When former Gov. Jeb Bush announced he was exploring a bid to run for president, the Democrats let loose their opposition research.

The Democratic National Committee released talking points it wanted Democrats to use against Bush; Politico published a leaked copy on Dec. 19.

Bush then posted the talking points on his own Facebook page, denouncing the attacks as "silly" and "misleading."

The DNC attacked Bush’s positions on a long list of topics, saying that another Bush presidency would mean policies "that wreck the economy, that give massive breaks to the wealthy and corporations, and that are out of step with American people including women, LGBT Americans, Latinos and people of color. The reality is that Jeb Bush is no different than almost all Republicans on issue after issue."

Among the talking points: "Bush not only opposes marriage equality, he’s said he ‘personally’ believes gay couples should be banned from adopting children."

The timing of that particular attack caught our eye, given how Miami-Dade County became the first place in Florida on Monday afternoon to allow same-sex couples to marry, with the rest of the state expected to follow on Tuesday. Federal Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in August the state’s gay-marriage ban, which voters approved in 2008, was unconstitutional. He stayed his order to allow for appeals. But after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected requests to extend the stay, Hinkle ruled on Jan. 1 that county clerks would be violating the U.S. Constitution if they didn’t issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Here, we’ll look at whether the DNC was accurate in saying that Bush opposes same-sex marriage and believes gay couples should be banned from adopting children.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

While in office from 1999 to 2007, Bush consistently opposed gay marriage, though he was not a leading crusader against it.

In 2004, Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush, proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriages. At the time, Florida law did not allow for same-sex marriage, though there was no specific ban on it in the state Constitution. In 2004, 11 states approved their own gay marriage bans.

A spokeswoman for the DNC pointed to an article in the Tallahassee Democrat that stated: "Bush supports his brother, President George W. Bush, in seeking a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman."

Over the next few years, religious conservatives in Florida worked to get a question on the ballot banning gay marriage in the state constitution, and they succeeded in 2008.

Bush faced questions about it while in office. At times, he showed some support with caveats for a state constitutional ban, but he often said that he was reluctant to change the Constitution.

"If there was a threat that gay marriage would be accepted in our state, then I might be supportive of it," Bush said in November 2004, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "I'm not sure it's necessary to do this in a preemptive fashion."

It’s worth noting that when Bush was in office, he had plenty of company among both Republicans and Democrats in opposing gay marriage. It wasn’t until May 2012 that President Barack Obama made a Full Flop in favor of gay marriage. And it wasn’t until March 2013 that Hillary Clinton announced she now supported gay marriage. That same month Bill Clinton denounced the Defense of Marriage Act that he had signed in 1996.

GAY ADOPTION

In 2001, a federal judge upheld Florida’s ban on gay adults adopting. The state argued that married heterosexuals provided a more stable home (even though the state allowed single people to adopt). Bush supported that ruling.

As Bush faced reelection in 2002, the ban remained a hot topic as a challenge wound its way through federal appeals court. Bush said he was reluctant to take a stand since the issue was in court.

"I think it's an issue that is marginal to the bigger issue, which is, how do we get children in loving homes?" Bush said.

Bush’s position on gays adopting came up during an October 2002 debate when he faced reelection against Democratic rival Bill McBride.

"If you're going to have permanency, it should be with a loving couple that is a man and a wife. That is the law of this land, it's in the courts, but I also believe that personally," Bush said.

A poll done for the Orlando Sentinel during that race showed that a majority of Floridians at the time opposed gays adopting and same-sex marriages.

In January 2004, a federal appeals court upheld the ban.

"The decision validates Florida's conclusion that it is in the best interest of adopted children, many of whom come from troubled and unstable backgrounds, to be placed in a home anchored both by a father and a mother," Bush said in a news release.

In 2010, a state appeals court struck down the ban.

AFTER LEAVING OFFICE

Bush has made a few statements since he left office defending "traditional marriage" but has said little about gays adopting.

In an interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose in 2012, he seemed to express some tolerance for gay parents and used softer language to talk about gay couples.

"I think traditional marriage is what should be sanctioned and not at the expense of discriminating in other forms of family structure," Bush said. "So I don’t support it, but I would say that wholesome loving family life ought to be kind of the organizing principle in a free society. If we don’t want to have government overwhelm us, then we have to be self-governing. ... And if people love their children with all their heart and soul, and that’s what they do, and that’s how they organized their life, that should be held up as examples for others to follow, because we need it. We desperately need it, and that can take all sorts of forms. It doesn’t have to take the one that I think should be sanctioned under the law."

In a statement to reporters at an event at Mississippi College in March 2013, he said the U.S. Supreme Court should not decide the issue: "I am a supporter of traditional marriage. I do think that these decisions should be made at the state level, so I hope the constitutional amendment in California is not overturned."

(He made his comments a few months before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act and dismissed a case on Proposition 8, California’s law that banned gay marriage.)

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

In a statement to PolitiFact Florida on Monday, Bush said through a spokeswoman: "Previously, I opposed gay adoption, but it has since become the law in our state and I respect that decision."

As for marriage, he said: "We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty."

OUR RULING

The DNC said that "Bush not only opposes marriage equality, he’s said he ‘personally’ believes gay couples should be banned from adopting children."

As Bush continues to explore running for president, he may provide more specific comments about his current views, but for now we are rating the DNC’s statement based on the available evidence at the time the DNC made the statement. While in office, Bush repeatedly said he opposed gay marriage, although he was reluctant at times to amend the state Constitution since it was already banned in state law. He also opposed gay adults adopting children. Since leaving office, Bush said that he supports "traditional marriage," though he has used a softer tone when asked about it. The statement is accurate but needs additional information, so we rate this statement Mostly True.

PolitiFact Florida

The statement: Says Jeb Bush "not only opposes marriage equality, he’s said he ‘personally’ believes gay couples should be banned from adopting children."

The ruling: As Bush continues to explore running for president, he may provide more specific comments about his current views, but for now we are rating the DNC’s statement based on the available evidence at the time the DNC made the statement. While in office, Bush repeatedly said that he opposed gay marriage, although he was reluctant at times to amend the state Constitution since it was already banned in state law. He also opposed gay adults adopting children. Since leaving office, Bush said that he supports "traditional marriage," though he has used a softer tone when asked about it.

We rate this claim: Mostly True.

Politifact Florida is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald to check out truth in politics.

  Comments