Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush urged respect for "the rule of law" on Monday as the first same-sex marriages began in his home state, but declined to offer his opinion on the subject.
Exploring a run for President, the Republican lawmaker did not address a judge's finding against the state's gay-marriage ban, which was ruled unconstitutional last year, but sought to placate all sides on the controversial subject. The court-ordered stay was lifted Monday, clearing the way for marriages to begin in the state.
"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law," Bush said in a statement. "I hope that we can 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."
Bush, who converted to Catholicism, endorsed a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman when it was pushed by his brother, former President George W. Bush.
In an interview with the Miami Herald this weekend, Jeb Bush implied he disagreed with the court's decision to overturn the state's ban. "It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision," Bush said. "The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess."
Republicans seeking the White House find themselves in a tough spot on the issue, caught between an evangelical base opposed to same-sex unions and a broader electorate that has drastically shifted in favor of them. Bush joins a roster of Republican politicians who are personally opposed to the issue, but have apparently acknowledged the shifting political dynamics. Last year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared the issue "settled" in his state and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that "it's over in Wisconsin" after courts ruled against marriage bans.
In a statement, Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee mocked Bush's statement's evasiveness. “It took Jeb Bush 69 words to say absolutely nothing – 69 words not to say, ‘I support marriage equality,’" he said in statement. "Nothing’s changed. At the end of Bush’s statement, he still had the same position: he opposes the right of gay and lesbian Floridians — and all LGBT Americans — to get married and adopt children."