Ever since Friday's SCOTUS gay marriage ruling was issued in favor of marriage equality, 2016 presidential candidates have been issuing strong statements in hopes of earning votes and establishing their thoughts on such a pivotal issue. Democrats and presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders praised the decision while many Republican candidates like Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee decried it. Still others appeared a bit more moderate, most notably Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham. So, has the GOP changed their minds on gay marriage even a little? Sadly, not in the least. Both Graham and Bush have vowed to respect SCOTUS' decision but then side-stepped the actual issue at hand in favor of advocating for religious rights.
On his campaign website, Bush issued a statement saying that "it is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate." Personally, however, the candidate believes in what he calls traditional marriage and disagrees with the court's decision. Bush further deflected the question of marriage equality by both advocating for the respect of such unions and decrying SCOTUS for not upholding states' rights over federal. Says Bush:
I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.
Lindsey Graham, however, framed the issue as one of campaign and party priorities. During an interview for NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, the South Carolina senator issued no statements on how he defines marriage but did talk Republican strategy around marriage equality with host Chuck Todd. Graham even explicitly stated that he agreed with Bush's statements. For Graham, however, the GOP's response to the decision appears to be rooted firmly in what it takes to get elected over how candidates actually align themselves:
In my view, you can put it in the platform but it will, in my view, hurt us in 2016 because it's a process that's not going to bear fruit. What I want to do is protect the religious liberties of those who believe that opposing same-sex marriage is part of their faith so no, I would not engage in the constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the court's ruling, fight for the religious liberties of every American.
It's small progress that both Graham and Bush can acknowledge such a momentous decision and ultimately respect it, but it certainly doesn't mean the whole party or the candidates are changing their views on gay marriage.
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