Now that “The Hug” has been followed by “The Switch”, an array of policy questions await Charlie Crist. None may present a more difficult challenge for the former Republican governor than where he stands on gay rights and marriage equality.
After all, it’s an easy lift to be for enhanced voting rights or against anything Rick Scott stands for, but it is quite another thing to find a nuanced position on what is really the seminal civil rights issue of our time.
Nor will Crist be able to duck the issue, now that the US Supreme Court has decided to to hear challenges to two high profile anti-gay laws, the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s voter-passed Proposition 8, which rolled back same same-sex marriage in America’s largest state. Crist will be asked where he stands on the issues involved in these cases — most likely by Democratic activists eager to know more about the man who may hope to carry their standard in 2014.
Where Crist stands on gay rights and marriage equality is complicated by the ridiculous rumors about him being a closeted homosexual that have swirled about Crist throughout his political career. Such innuendo continues to dog Crist, now a happily married man, because of trash allegations by former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer that Crist paid two men to conceal gay affairs.
As a Republican, Crist generally adopted a laissez faire attitude towards issues of gay rights and marriage equality. In 2008, when Floridians voted on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Crist said it was not an issue that moved him. “I’m just a live and let live kind of guy,” the then governor said.
Such a nonchalant attitude does not sit well with most Democrats. Fortunately, Crist’s record on gay rights and marriage equality has improved since he left the governor’s mansion. During the 2010 US Senate race, Crist released a position paper endorsing the end of Florida’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. He also endorsed legislation to allow gay Americans to sponsor their same-sex spouses for citizenship, repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and other LGBT priorities, notes Julie Bolcer of the Advocate.
Still, the contemporary Democratic Party prefers leaders with a more progressive stance on marriage equality than simply supporting for civil unions. And it remains to be seen whether Crist will support his newfound party’s support of marriage equality.
Perhaps Crist will emulate his role model, Barack Obama, and upgrade his position to a full-throated endorsement of marriage equality.