“Moderate” GOPer Jeb Bush: Indiana straights-only law is “the right thing to do”

Yesterday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush went on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and defended Indiana Governor Mike Pence, along with his recently-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Bush said that Governor Pence had “done the right thing” by signing the law, and insisted that the more people knew about the law, the more they’d realize that it doesn’t protect the kinds of discrimination that it’s explicitly designed to protect.

Listen to the audio here, via The Daily Caller.

Said Bush:

I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs. To be able to be people of conscience. I think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.

Well, the facts are established. Unlike the federal RFRA, and unlike other states with religious freedom laws, Indiana’s RFRA opens the door for all kinds of discrimination.

If you listen to Bush closely, you can even hear him admit as much himself.

On Sunday, Governor Pence refused, repeatedly, to say whether his new law would allow for Christians to refuse service to gay couples at their weddings, as he clearly understood that admitting as much would undermine his case that the law doesn’t license discrimination. In Bush’s interview with Hewitt, he explained his support for the law by arguing that that’s exactly what the law is designed to protect:

There are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that, based on her conscience, she couldn’t be participating in a gay wedding…or the photographer in New Mexico. There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been castigated by the government…We’re gonna need this. This is an important value for our country.

Let’s be clear: that statement puts Jeb Bush to the right of Mike Pence on religious right-to-discriminate bills.

But don’t tell that to the folks who have long insisted that Bush is the “moderate” in the Republican primary field:

If anything, Bush’s “moderation” is in tone and not substance. In reclassifying these refusals of service as “conscience,” Bush and other defenders of Indiana’s law are simply engaging in a patronizingly petty case of legislative tomayto/tomahto.

Both sides of this debate are citing the same examples — florists, bakers and photographers who don’t want to do business at same-sex weddings — to make their respective cases. Bush claims that the law is simply exempting those florists, bakers and photographers from participating in an event they consider incompatible with their deeply held religious convictions. To the rest of civil society, the law clearly allows those florists, bakers and photographers to tell two people who love each other that “we don’t serve your kind around here.”

But since these real-world thought experiments are apparently reaching a dead end, since we can’t get a straight answer out of those who claim to want to “clarify” what the law does and doesn’t allow for, it may be time to ask Governors Pence and Bush a few more questions:

Say I have a deeply-held religious belief that contraception is murder. If I work at a CVS, am I protected from being fired under Indiana’s RFRA if I refuse to sell condoms?

Or say I have a deeply-held religious belief that I need to smoke marijuana every day in order to effectively connect with a higher power. Under Indiana’s RFRA, can I smoke a joint in my backyard?

Or say I have a deeply-held religious belief that the Jews are immoral people who murdered Jesus. If I own a concert hall, does Indiana’s RFRA let me refuse to rent it out for a Bar Mitzvah party?

Or say I have a deeply-held religious belief that God put people of different races on different continents for a reason. If I’m a pastor, does Indiana’s RFRA let me abstain from performing an interracial marriage?

Seriously, let’s pin this down: What doesn’t Indiana’s RFRA protect under the guise of religious conscience? Where do deeply-held religious beliefs end, and where does civil society begin?

We haven’t gotten a straight answer yet, and until we get one we need to keep asking.

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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57 Responses to ““Moderate” GOPer Jeb Bush: Indiana straights-only law is “the right thing to do””

  1. mrm717 says:

    Didn’t John Aravosis’ friend, Bill Clinton, sign DOMA into law after he screwed the gay community on DADT? We don’t need “friends” like they are.

  2. mrm717 says:

    Who appointed sell-outs like American Blog and their sold out friends like Robert Roquet and Richard Socrarides to represent LGBT rights advocates?

  3. JaneE says:

    My husband’s mother converted from Russian Orthodox to Roman Catholic when her daughter married a Roman Catholic and converted. She was away from her home parish, in Florida, visiting her family in CA. She died during the trip. The RC would not do a funeral service, because she was not from their parish, even though the others of her family were. My husband went to the local Orthodox church, and asked if they would do a service. They did, and were very gracious about it, since none of the family were members of their church. There is a lot of difference in how different varieties of Christianity see their faith.

  4. UncleBucky says:

    And really, a couple, any couple, IF they are going to have their contract officiated religously, would find a place that is most accommodating! Yet, that was not always so easy.

    Many years ago, I recall that Catholic parishes in Chicago pretty much agreed to force people to marry within the parish (whether the priest or church building was good for them) and to deny out-of-parish marriages in other parishes. So you either had to find a rogue Catholic priest or a non-diocesan Catholic church or even settle for an Episcopalian or Lutheran church that would offer the most similar service.

    So, it’s not just interracial marriages, divorced persons remarrying, and same gender marriages that have been problems, but simply not being in the right parish!

    Go figure!

  5. UncleBucky says:

    Bush said that Governor Pence had “done the right thing” by signing the law…

    Bush is quite mad:

  6. Tom Chicago says:

    We can also look forward to all these RFRA’s–like the DOMA-type state laws–which also were passed in a frenzy of fundamentalist ass-kissing and gay panic–to come tumbling down, one after another, Is there really no memory of the North Carolina Woolworth lunch counter? There is no basis for this animus in the context of doing business. One’s “deeply held beliefs” are often nothing more than spite, concealed.

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  9. Butch1 says:

    This governor and his cronies in Indianapolis have finally figured it out through their myopia and the big businesses calling them and giving them an ear full, that they screwed up hugely. They do not understand social issues, though they do understand money issues very well and when they see a huge flight leaving Indiana and people cancelling their meetings and conventions because of their pigheadedness, they will try and figure out a way to “un-paint” themselves out of the corner they are in.

    To please a few, they have knocked that hornet’s nest off the branch and now, the hornets are swarming and biting. It’s to be expected and why they couldn’t see it coming is their own damned fault. I have no sympathy for mean spirited people such as these fools. Let’s see how they try and save face on this one and try and keep the rabid “christianists” happy as well.

  10. Butch1 says:

    Jeb Bush is no moderate.

  11. DrDignity says:

    As businesses flee, the only ones prospering will be plywood companies, shuttering storefronts & buildings which have gone out of business. A manufactured solution in search of a non-existent manufactured problem. Good article, Jon Green!

  12. JaneE says:

    I like to point them to the last part of Revelation 21:8 “all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”

  13. Don Chandler says:

    Trust me, the republicans are trying to change the minds of young voters. Hate sells in GOPland.

  14. FLL says:

    Why would the Republican front runner in the presidential race back the Indiana law and Governor Pence? Why would the Arkansas legislature just pass this same type of law today, and why would the Arkansas governor promise to sign it. Do Jeb and these governors think this will increase their poll numbers? Apparently they do, and for good reason. These types of discriminatory laws will become the 2016 equivalent of the anti-gay state marriage amendments of 2004. The Republican Party will back these laws going into the 2016 election as a way of rallying fundamentalist Christian bigots to show up at the polls and vote Republican.

    It’s very clear that this is going to be an integral strategy for the Republicans in the 2016 election, just as it was in 2004. I had briefly thought that the Republicans were finished with trying to use gay people as a political football because of their silence on the court victories for marriage equality… but… I guess it’s back to one more attempt at using the 2004 anti-gay Karl-Rove strategy. The strategy worked in 2004, so the Republicans must be thinking “why not try it again?” My own observation is that 12 years has passed. What worked in 2004 may fail in 2016. Pass the popcorn.

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    Yes, militant.

    The people who were demoralized and injured by DOMA, DADT, state DOMAs and the betrayal of marriage equality in 2008 rose up in 2009 with a huge demonstration in DC.

    And after being distracted by the lies of the election campaigns of 2012 and 2014 we’re rising up again.

  16. Houndentenor says:

    How on earth could Huntsman ever get the GOP nomination? There are too many states where the religious right is the largest voting block in the primaries.

  17. Houndentenor says:

    I’m looking forward to the first time one of these laws is used to discriminate against an Evangelical Christian. Please let there be video. Please please please!

  18. Houndentenor says:

    I have been jumping on that one on facebook all week. If ministers could be forced to perform marriages they don’t agree with, then they’d have been forcing Catholics to marry people who’d been divorced three times already and Orthodox Jews to perform interfaith marriages. That hasn’t happened and isn’t going to. For the very same reason no one is going for forced The Pentecostals to perform weddings for gay couples. It’s just a lie and I’ve been calling out the people saying such things as liars. They don’t much like it because it’s true.

  19. Houndentenor says:

    Militant? No. Just tired of being a doormat. But then that’s what militant means these days I guess.

    Oh, and we have friends and family and not all of them are willing to throw us under the bus. I think they forget that. We are a pretty small percentage of the overall population but a lot of us are quite popular among our colleagues, extended family and friends. In fact I’ve been most surprised to see straight guys speak on about this. This is a new generation of straight men coming up (in their early 20s now). They aren’t gay but they don’t care if anyone thinks they are (because why would it matter). The tide really has turned and someone forgot to send Pence and company the memo.

  20. Houndentenor says:

    Don’t be so sure. joemygod.com just pulled his 2000 campaign site (for a different office) and it’s even more anti-gay than anything he’s said this year.

  21. Houndentenor says:

    Remember that this is the same guy who shamelessly exploited the Terri Schiavo case. There is no depth too low for the Bush family. Moderate? Really? How fucked is our country that this passes for moderate in today’s GOP. I wouldn’t trust any of them out of my sight much less vote for them or even hire them for the lowest level job. Crooks and liars every fucking one of them.

  22. Doug105 says:

    Oh he believes, he also just smart enough to know saying so will make it worse, but forgot about something called the internet, were things stay forever.
    REVEALED: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s Ugly History Of Anti-LGBT Advocacy

  23. JaneE says:

    I read a report that the Church of Cannabis qualified as a religion in Indiana. It would really be burdensome if the law prevented you from partaking in your sacraments, now wouldn’t it?

  24. Doug105 says:

    Or, by then the deranged nutballs could leave for their own party tired of the “run to the middle” costing them their god divine right too rule.

  25. mirth says:

    So many great exchanges about this backward fundy law in a backward fundy state signed by a backward (lying, sack o’ shite) fundy governor. Here’s one I especially liked:

    In response to Christian leader Graham’s tweet supporting the law, someone with the username Mary M tweeted, “amen using his God given right.”
    Jennifer Watson tweeted them back: “NO: as an elected official, his rights are not God given, they are voter given.”

    Next stop: Oklahoma

  26. Don Chandler says:

    Yup, Churches are a protected class that doesn’t need any more protection. Maybe these bakers and photographers and what not should form a church. Get tax free exemptions. Become eligible for faith based funds. What does it take to be a religion? Maybe when the religious freedom act is struck down in courts, everyone will start wearing steeples on their heads.

  27. Bill_Perdue says:


    He’s a bigot panderer who got caught with his britches down and now he’s scrambling to rebrand.

    He’s not the first politician in that fix and won’t be the last. Clinton and Obama found out the hard way that it’s not safe to screw with us.

    One of his big errors is that he forgot that we have a national movement that’s moving from strength to strength and that’s getting ever more militant. I think that, and the fact that it’s a broad based attack on the rights to public access is the explanation for the furor over this matter.

    His religious base will be furious with him for backtracking. The Republicans have a real dilemma regarding their bigotry and bigot pandering. It can hurt as much as it helps them.

  28. nicho says:

    Don’t let facts ever get in the way of good scare tactics. When Prop 8 was on the ballot in CA in 2008, churches were telling people that if it didn’t pass, then there churches could be shut down and their pastors sued and/or arrested for refusing to perform same-sex marriage. They also said that kindegartens would have to teach kids same-sex “practices.”

    In fact, in interviews after the prop passed some people who had voted for it said that they had nothing against same-sex couples marrying, but they needs to protect their churches and ministers.

    In addition to that, Mormons were being told, according to one member quoted in the local paper, that not passing it would invalidate every law and moral precept since the beginning of time.

  29. Indigo says:

    Well, yes. But at least it’s got coherent spokespeople.

  30. Naja pallida says:

    What I don’t get is that if he really believes in this law, why can’t he defend it clearly and concisely? The only answer is: he doesn’t really believe in it. He’s just catering to the crazy, while trying to seem reasonable.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    Even the most rabid equal rights groups have never suggested that churches, and the officiants of those churches, should be forced to perform rites they don’t agree with. Churches have always been able to require things, like conversion, counseling or hell the removal of foreskin, before they will agree to perform rites for people. I can’t just walk into a synagogue and demand the rabbi perform a ceremony for me, and then sue when he refuses. That case would be laughed out of court – but bakers, florists, photographers, or Hobby Lobby for that matter, are not churches, and should thus not be permitted the same protections that we grant those religious institutions. But I think that’s taking this whole argument too logically. Pence and the crowd of nut job Republicans who agree with him, simply want to grant the right to discriminate to anyone, for any reason. Granting bigots a protected status.

  32. BeccaM says:

    perhaps by 2020 the GOP-ers will have sobered up

    Sobered up, or finally said, “Fuck it, let’s finish this slow-rolling anti-democratic coup and launch New Gilead like we’ve been planning since the 1990s.”

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    Who are they trying to kid. Pence was just on the air backtracking, or pretending to backtrack.

    He’s lying. ” … Micah Clark, who serves as executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana and who stood right behind Pence as he signed the bill. Speaking Monday to Tim Wildmon, head of the national American Family Association, Clark explained that conservatives should oppose any effort to clarify that the law does not legalize discrimination. “That could totally destroy this bill,” he explained.

    … Eric Miller, Executive Director of Advance America, is another anti-LGBT activist who stood by Pence as he signed the bill. Advance America praised Pence for signing the bill last week, openly stating that it would allow wedding vendors to refuse to serve same-sex couples and allow Christian businesses to refuse transgender people access to restrooms. Miller was quoted as saying, “It is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana. It’s the right thing to do. It was therefore important to pass Senate Bill 101 in 2015 in order to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!” http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/31/3640801/conservatives-indiana-discrimination/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3

  34. Indigo says:

    Jon Hunstman has the credibility they need but he’s already announced he’s not running. I take that to suggest he’s smart enough to make a wise choice at a difficult time, maybe by 2020 the GOP-ers will have sobered up and he can claim the candidacy. Meanwhile, they’ve only got nutballs. I’m hoping they pick Mario to carry the banner, he’s a prize dolt.

  35. BeccaM says:

    Devil’s semi-advocate: What Indiana’s RFRA doesn’t protect under the guise of ‘religious beliefs’ (which are not required by the statute to be part of any organized or recognized mainstream religion’s actual teachings) is discrimination that is otherwise prohibited by federal, state, or local law.

    If you ran a private for-profit business, you couldn’t refuse to hire someone because they were Jewish or female or disabled. Same with public accommodations or housing.

    However, anywhere there is a hole in the law or you can identify some angle which makes your choice to discriminate not directly related to the person’s protected class status, you can discriminate away. Want to refuse to sell condoms and contraceptives as a pharmacist? Go right ahead. Want to refuse to rent an apartment to a Muslim family not because they’re Muslim, but because you object to Islamic prayers being performed inside a building you own? That’d probably fly. Of course precisely as designed, if you own a party hall and don’t want to rent it to a gay couple for their wedding reception, you’re totally within your rights under Indiana’s new law to do that, and you are in fact not obligated to advertise your anti-gay position. Feel free to ruin that wedding by taking their deposit and then canceling them at the last second.

    What’s been getting a little coverage, but not enough is the sheer duplicity when Pence and Bush and the rest of the would-be anti-gay bigots try to claim the Indiana law is identical to the Federal one. It is not. The Federal RFRA came about because (drum-roll) the Supreme Court in a decision penned by Antonin Scalia (surprise!) had ruled in a peyote case that the Fed law could override any particular religious practice. (This was yet another example of the far-right court wanting to reach a given conclusion with no thought whatsoever as to its overreach or legal implications.) The Federal RFRA says the government may not substantial burden someone’s free exercise of religion unless there are compelling reasons that can be proven in court. So, to use an extreme example, the Federal RFRA does not make human sacrifice legal. They also had a means for saying, “No, you can’t have a Church of MaryJane” due to drug policies and laws. But the bottom line was this had to be a “government vs individual” situation. This is why the Fed RFRA passed with so little controversy and with strong bipartisan support. That the SCOTUS would later use the same law to enable Hobby Lobby’s anti-woman agenda was not the original intent.

    What makes these new laws different is now the government need not be a party. Individuals, groups, and businesses of any size can now attempt to impose whatever they like on others. And as long as there is a legal loophole, the person or group affected cannot bring a discrimination suit against those doing the discriminating. Like I said, you can’t refuse to hire a woman for being a woman…but you can now refuse to hire her for being unmarried or for using contraceptives. You can even state you have religious objections to the wearing of yarmulkes, turbans and other head-coverings in your place of business, meaning you can turn away Jews, Sikhs, and observant Muslims — unless they bare their heads in accordance with your stated religious beliefs.

    Anyway, this right here is the backlash I’ve been harping about the last two years. The far-right radicals are not going to just take LGBT civil rights advances as a given. This is their push-back, and it seems LGBTs aren’t alone in being the targets thereof. We can expect the Wingnuts and Tea Baggers and regressives to be going after every minority they hate — gays, women, non-Christians, you name it.

  36. JaneE says:

    Exactly, the article included them in a list that they should not have been on. Churches are allowed to discriminate in who they provide religious rituals for. It is not a public business.

  37. Ninong says:

    In some cases the local parish priest will refuse to allow the usual, in church, Requiem Mass funeral ceremony for a gay man who died while gay-married or in a gay civil union. I think that’s an individual thing and not something that is consistent across all dioceses in the country.

  38. Ninong says:

    If she doesn’t want to waste her beautiful mind of our Iraq War casualties, you know she’s not going to waste it on something as trivial as gay rights. One thing she was right about: we’ve had enough Bushes.

  39. nicho says:

    The best line about Bar came from a GOP White House staffer. He said, “If you could scrape the venom off her tongue, you could create an antidote for ricin.”

  40. nicho says:

    Yeah, they do. They need someone who’s credible as a candidate. None of the nutballs are a serious threat. They need someone that Republicans and right-leaning indies can hold their noses and vote for. After all, 59,000,000 people voted for John McCain. Another 61,000,000 voted for WIllard. You wouldn’t see that many voting for Cruz or Paul. So what they need is someone who’s credible enough to get votes and scary enough to push the lefties into supporting a war mongering corporatist with a D after her name.

  41. 2karmanot says:

    His mother does have a ‘beautiful mind’ however, and the T**d doesn’t drop very far from the—you know………..

  42. caphillprof says:

    Actually bakers, florists and photographers are not pastors but people engaging in public commerce.

    Recently there was a case where a church at the last minute refused a funeral previously scheduled.

  43. JaneE says:

    Actually, pastors don’t have to perform interracial or any other kind of marriage they don’t approve of. It isn’t often that a couple will get to the wedding before knowing that their church doesn’t approve or allow their relationship to be solemnized.

  44. Indigo says:

    I don’t think they really need a boogeyman, the GOP-options are scary enough.

  45. nicho says:

    But now the corporatists have their boogeyman to scare the rubes into voting for Hillary.

  46. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama started more wars but Bush and Clinton murdered millions.

    Bush sponsored more anti-democratic laws but Obama began the practice of murdering American citizens.

    Clinton caused the crash of 2007 and Bush added to economic destabilization with tax cuts for the rich. Obama adopted a policy of benign neglect and let poverty, low wages and underemployment fester.

    They’re all equally guilty of being political prostitutes for the rich.

  47. nicho says:

    I don’t know why you say Obama is Bush Lite. I would say he’s Bush 2.0. All sorts of little upgrades. And since he has a D after his name, the Democrats give him carte blanche.

  48. nicho says:

    Yes, I was just going to edit my post to remark that both books avoided the issue of Prescott’s treason in attempting to overthrow FDR, never mind the family’s connection to the Third Reich. Both of those have been stuffed down the memory hole.

  49. Indigo says:

    yes, and then there’s Prescott Bush’s backstory . . . oh myyy!

  50. Indigo says:

    or opportunistic.

  51. nicho says:

    If you haven’t read it already, get a copy of Russ Baker’s “Family of Secrets.” It will tell you all you need to know — and more than you want to know — about the scary, scary Bush family. Another good read is Kitty Kelley’s book on the family. It was thoroughly trashed by the Bush water carriers, but I found it well researched and well written.

  52. noGOP says:

    shrewd, not so much smart.

  53. Bill_Perdue says:

    W. got another 8 years with the election of Obama, who’s Bush lite, just as George is Clinton lite. We got more wars. poverty, underemployment, low wages and anti-Bill of Rights laws like NDAA.

  54. 1nancy2 says:

    I can’t stand that awful, Jeb with the hideous last name, BUSH. Give me a break; another Bush? I never thought W. would get another 4 years and he did; of course he got in by cheating, lying, stealing the vote in ’00 and ’04 and there we sat for 8 long, miserable years, as he put his X mark where gargoyle, Dick told him. Creeps.

  55. Bill_Perdue says:

    The Republicans are going to move right on this question, trying to recreate the kind of anti-gay wedge issues George Bush used from 2002 to 2006 with state DOMAs, imitating Bill Clintons federal DOMA. It’s going to hurt them.

    Because the Indiana law is such a broad attack on public access and has so many gaping loopholes, it’ll end up hurting them. The Indiana RFRA is part of a national campaign to deny us public access, promote discrimination in hiring and firing and limit marriage equality.

  56. dcinsider says:


  57. Indigo says:

    The fun fact about the Jebster, they say, is that he’s the smart one in his family.

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