John M. Becker

Crist: I'm Sorry for Supporting Marriage Ban After I Opposed It

Filed By John M. Becker | January 03, 2014 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Charlie Crist, flip-flop, Florida, gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

Charlie CristFormer Florida Governor Charlie Crist served one term in office -- from 2007 to 2011 -- as a member of the Republican Party. He declined to run for re-election in 2010, deciding instead to make an ultimately ill-fated bid for U.S. Senate. (Crist lost to Tea Party darling Marco Rubio.)

This year, Crist is running for a second term, but as a member of the Democratic Party. He's actively courting the LGBT community, but given his past support for Florida's constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, Crist understandably faces considerable skepticism.

In an exclusive interview this week with Tom Dyer, a reporter with Watermark Online (an Orlando-based LGBT publication), Crist apologized for his previous anti-gay views. But if he thought he'd get away with a simple "I'm sorry," he was sorely mistaken: Dyer put him through the ringer, and forced Crist to explain himself in far greater detail than he seemed to want to.

From the interview:

Tom Dyer: You've recently articulated support for marriage equality, adoption rights, employment non-discrimination protections... pretty much all the acknowledged ingredients of full LGBT equality. At the same time, I think it's legitimate for members of the LGBT community to be skeptical.

When you first ran for governor in 2006, you said that a ban on same-sex marriage was unnecessary, but then you signed a petition to place Amendment 2 [banning same-sex marriage] on the ballot...

Charlie Crist: ...and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I did that. It was a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive me.

TD: I appreciate that, but I want to make sure I spell this out in full. After you signed the petition you said Amendment 2 wasn't an issue that moved you, but then you ended up voting for it, saying you believed in it. Just three years ago, when you were running for the Senate as a Republican, you told CNN that you believed that "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman." And just three years ago, when talking about gay adoption, you expressed a belief that traditional families are best...

CC: Tom... I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

TD: Well again, I appreciate that. But I think it's important for you to address this. When you look back at the circumstances, one could come to the conclusion that your shifts in opinion were either politically expedient...

CC: They were. They were. And it was wrong. That's what I'm telling you. And I'm sorry.

TD: ...or that you were just trying to make everyone happy and had no real convictions on these matters. I appreciate the apology...

CC: I'm not sure you do.

TD: Well, I'm trying. But more importantly I want you to have the opportunity to address this in full; to explain where you've been and where you are right now.

Crist.jpgCC: I was a Republican. You know why I was a Republican? Because my mom and dad were Republicans. I've told many people this. It's the same reason I'm a Methodist. So I grew up as a Republican. I joined the Young Republicans, College Republicans... all that stuff. And as I got older I got interested in politics, and I ran for office as a Republican and I tried to be a good team player. But it was an awkward fit, and on social issues it was especially awkward. I have three sisters. My mom and dad raised my three sisters and me to be decent to other people, to be kind to other people, to have compassion, empathy, sympathy when necessary... the things we talked about earlier. And it became harder and harder for me to toe the Republican party line. I tried, and I tried, and I tried... until I couldn't any more.

The examples you cited were examples of me trying to be a good Republican. I couldn't do it anymore, and I'm sorry I did. I made a mistake. I'm not perfect... please don't hold me to that standard. And I'm sincerely sorry. I understand when it's necessary to say I was wrong. That's the journey I'm on... and I'm still on it.

As a Republican, on social issues I always felt I was a round peg in a square hole. I just didn't fit. But I tried, until I couldn't do it any more... until I had to say, 'Enough is enough.'

My mom and dad raised us to love everyone, to be nice to everyone, to be kind to everyone for as long as you possibly can. So telling women what to do with their bodies, telling people who to love or who to marry... it's not for me. It's not for government. It shouldn't be for anybody. It's between them and their god. I've always really felt that way, and I'm glad I don't have to pretend anymore. As a Democrat I don't have to, and that's why I'm so happy to be home... where I belong.

TD: I want to follow up, because I think this is where many LGBT voters need reassurance. You're a Democrat now. The positions you now hold on LGBT issues are those held by most Democrats, and likely necessary for you have credibility within the party. Can you convince us that your present views aren't once again driven by political expediency? Can you convince us that the positions you've recently expressed are heartfelt, and something we can count on in the future?

CC: I just did. There will be doubters, and they have a right to that. But I ask that they have a little faith.

Click here to view Tom Dyer's interview in full over at Watermark Online; it's worth reading.

What do you think of Crist's apology? Did he seem sufficiently sorry for the suffering his views brought to Florida's LGBT community? Florida voters, is this enough to convince you to "have a little faith" in him?

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