Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for U.S. Senate in Florida, will later this week announce his support for many federally mandated gay rights — including support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and supporting the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — according to a position paper published at Rawstory.com and Equality Florida.
In addition to those issues, the one-page position paper calls for civil unions with “full legal protections,” new anti-bullying laws, allowing Florida family judges to consider placing children with gay parents, allowing gay couples to sponsor their partners for immigration, equal access to COBRA, and appropriations for HIV/AIDS programs. The document does not call for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Crist’s position on same-sex marriage is nothing new. On Aug. 30, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, he said, “When it comes to marriage, I think it is a sacred institution, I believe it is between a man and a woman. … It’s just how I feel.” In the interview, he responded affirmatively to a question about supporting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but later spokesman Danny Kanner wrote that he had misspoken: “I was not discussing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage, which I do not support, but rather reaffirming my position regarding Florida’s constitutional ban that I articulated while running for Governor.”
Crist’s team reached out to Equality Florida for input on state and federal LGBT issues after the group contacted him on the state’s gay adoption ban. “This is the first time a Florida governor has staked such a strong position on the issues. And that’s to be applauded,” says Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “But on the other hand, these are mainstream positions,” she adds, citing poll numbers showing a majority of Americans support the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and full legal protections for gay couples.
Gov. Crist’s shift also has to be understood in a political context — since leaving the Republican Party to become a no-party candidate, Crist has moved further left on many issues, gay rights included. Crist previously opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and supported Florida’s ban on gay adoptions as governor.
Crist is competing for votes with Rep. Kendrick Meek, running for Senate as the Democratic nominee, to see who has the best chance against former Florida House speaker and Republican candidate Marco Rubio. Rep. Meek’s campaign manager, Abe Dyk, sent out a press release blasting Crist’s change, saying, “Charlie Crist has a long record of taking stands that hurt Florida’s LGBT community. … Kendrick, in contrast, has been a champion of LGBT rights.”
In recent polls, Crist and Rubio are running close with Meek in third place — Crist is also taking approximately half of the Democratic vote.
Read in full or download the Crist paper:
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.