Jeb Bush is in favor of anti-discrimination laws, as long as he doesn’t have to sign them

Speaking to a group of startup employees in San Francisco yesterday, Jeb Bush emphatically stated that he opposes all manner of discrimination against LGBT people, including in the workplace.

Said Bush, quoted by Time, “I don’t think you should be discriminated because of your sexual orientation. Period. Over and out.”

But when it came to pinning himself down to supporting federal anti-discrimination laws, Bush sounded a decidedly more cautious tone, saying that the issue, like he previously claimed with respect to marriage, is best left to the states.

Jeb Bush, original photo via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Jeb Bush, original photo via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Bush went on to re-hash the cliche hypothetical of the religious florist who is asked to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. Bush reiterated his position that the florist should have to sell flowers to LGBT people, but shouldn’t be compelled to participate in the wedding, which they presumably would be if they knew the flowers were doing to be used in a wedding ceremony.

In other words, Bush has changed precisely none of his positions. He merely softened his tone for a more progressive audience. He supports LGBT rights, as long as he doesn’t have to be the person who signs those rights into law. He supports equality, as long as someone else takes the heat from conservatives who oppose it. This is the strategy that has earned him the title of “moderate” in a Republican field that, by and large, can’t figure out how to communicate rabidly conservative policies with a smile on their face.

Bush’s comments came on the same day that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is already illegal in all 50 states. To my knowledge, no Republican candidate has yet commented on the EEOC’s ruling, which will likely wind up before the Supreme Court in the coming years, but anyone who’s committed to the “states’ rights” position on LGBT non-discrimination would seem to have committed themselves to opposing the ruling.

Jeb Bush is going to earn some plaudits in the media for putting an accepting foot forward on LGBT equality. He hasn’t earned them. He’s simply re-formatted his existing positions to sound a little bit nicer.

The underlying policies, and their consequences, remain the same.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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