Going by the headlines U.S. Rep. David Jolly made yesterday with his comments in support of same-sex marriage, one could almost assume that the Pinellas Republican is staking out new ground with his position.
Jolly insists that is not the case.
In an exclusive interview, Congressman Jolly says he didn’t realize what he said was newsworthy.
“I was surprised this made the national news,” Jolly said.
Whether Jolly is playing coy or just being humble about his place in the world, his comments are lighting up social media.
“Republican David Jolly (Fla.) announces support for gay marriage” reads the headline of the story written by the Washington Post‘s Sean Sullivan, who covered Jolly during his campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Jolly, when asked by the Post if he supports gay marriage after a Florida judge overturned the state’s ban, said that his personal views on marriage are that it should be limited to one man and one woman. But, he added, states should not be defining the “sanctity” of marriage.
From there, the story quickly went viral. And in almost every article, blog post, story, and tweet, Jolly is portrayed as “coming out” for gay marriage.
Jolly says he’s been supportive of same-sex marriage all along. And not since his campaign, but from his days at law school.
“I can tell you exactly where my thinking began to change,” said Jolly. “It was my constitutional law class in 1998. That began a year of soul-searching on this issue.”
Jolly position on same-sex marriage, he insists, “is not an evolution.” Actually, Jolly’s position is shaped by a libertarian belief that government is not key to the sanctity of marriage.
“To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state,” Jolly explained in a statement to the Washington Post. “Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge.”
Jolly said this is what he tried to communicate during his the special election earlier this year to replace his mentor, the late Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young.
“After I taped my interview with Political Connections (a local news program airing on Tampa Bay’s Bay News 9),” said Jolly, “I called my mom to let her know that it would be coming out that I was in support of gay marriage.”
“As we were talking in the parking lot after the taping, I told my team, ‘The headline will be about gay marriage.’ “
During that interview, Tampa Bay Times reporter Adam Smith asked Jolly, “You’re OK if Florida said and voters decided same sex marriage is fine?”
“I am,” Jolly responded.
For whatever reason, Jolly’s maverick position did not receive the attention it deserved until yesterday when the Washington Post put it on the front burner.
Jolly said he wishes he would have first spoken to local media about the issue. “I should have called you or the Times.“
Now that Jolly is talking about the issue, he’s not pulling any punches. He says the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages goes against the U.S. Constitution and should be overturned.
Asked if he thinks Attorney General Pam Bondi should abandon her legal efforts to uphold the ban, Jolly reiterated his position that the amendment should be overturned but said he was unclear what the charter of Bondi’s office requires her to do to uphold Florida law.
Jolly also made it a point to say that he thinks one of the great “upcoming fights” is over religious liberty. He said he’s worried that the government will overstep its authority and force religious-based schools to teach about matters that go against their beliefs.
But that fight is for another day. Today, Jolly is making headlines for all the right reasons. The only issue is they should probably have been written months ago.