Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist Apologizes for Supporting Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment, but Does He Mean It? January 2, 2014

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist Apologizes for Supporting Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment, but Does He Mean It?

Last week, the Florida LGBT publication Watermark published an interview with former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, marking the governor’s first-ever interview with the LGBT press. While this could have been a prime opportunity for the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democratic politician to atone for his past sins against LGBT folks in his state, he did little more than admit how wrong he was.

Former Governor Charlie Crist

Crist says he left the Republican Party not because he changed, but because “the Republican Party went nuts.” But Crist adhered to the party’s anti-gay policies — which haven’t changed — without protest a few years back. In 2008, Florida voters just barely approved of Amendment 2, which added a provision to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Crist had initially expressed apathy toward the measure, but then had an apparent change of heart and told Floridians to vote for it.

Watermark interviewer (and publisher) Tom Dyer called him out on it — and didn’t accept his apology:

Dyer: 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…

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

Dyer: 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…

Crist: Tom… I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Crist apologizes a couple more times, agreeing that his shifts in opinion were “politically expedient,” but when Dyer gave him a chance to explain himself, he stumbled:

Dyer: … 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: 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… But it was an awkward fit, and on social issues it was especially awkward…

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…

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.

As a native Floridian who outed myself to my high school by wearing a “No on Amendment 2” shirt on Election Day in 2008, I remember being thoroughly upset that our flaky “good Republican” governor was advocating for constitutional discrimination. It was one of the first times I started to realize that people could be hateful for no discernible reason. Unfortunately for me and millions of other confused Floridians, Crist still hasn’t given us a reason.

There’s an interesting debate bubbling over at Joe Jervis‘ blog Joe. My. God. about whether or not Crist’s apology is sincere. Consensus seems to be against him, with most folks thinking he’ll do most anything for political support. (Anyone surprised?) As one commenter points out:

[Wish] that all journalists interviewing such politicians/pundits would pursue the issues like this! “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” doesn’t suffice, either, IMO.

And another:

The thing that’s missing for me is “making amends.” He seems to be making amends only when shamed into it by LGBT interviewers. That doesn’t sound like a man who’s genuinely turned a corner to me.

And those are the nicer responses. Plenty of others don’t give Crist nearly as much credit. And while I want to err on the side of optimism, he offered dissatisfying and vague answers when Dyer several times gave him a chance to offer solutions:

Dyer: 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?

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

Dyer: What you would do to advance LGBT equality as governor? Rep. Linda Stewart just introduced a bill to create a statewide Domestic Partner Registry. Given the progress made in other states it seems like a small thing, but even that faces many hurdles in the Republican-controlled State Legislature. The Competitive Workforce Act — an employment non-discrimination bill — can’t get out of committee. Marriage Equality seems a long way off, unless through some sort of court action. What can you do?

Crist: I want to do all those things. It’s not complicated. It comes down to one word: fairness. Everybody deserves to be treated fairly.

Oh, Governor Crist…

I’d vote for him over our current governor Rick Scott any day of the week, but I’m hard-pressed to call him an LGBT advocate just because he apologized for messing things up when he had a chance to do the right thing.

He’s got to make a much stronger case for himself if he wants people to vote for him because he’s actually the best candidate for the job and not just someone Democrats and LGBT rights advocates have to settle for because there’s no other option.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • JeromeMac

    In a way I have more respect for the anti-gay Phil Robertsons of the world who stand by their beliefs. Crist seems like a weather vane, and those kind of people are never liked by either side of an issue.

  • regexp

    Chris is a politician. Plain and simple. To expect anything else from him is simply naive (given your age this isn’t a surprise). He is now on our side of the issue with gay equality. That is a good thing. Before you vote for anyone consider their entire platform if or when he runs against the other candidates.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I agree with you Camille. As someone who also had to unlearn my prejudices against gays en route to become a GRA, I, of course, assume Crist is telling the truth.

    But you make good sense. He’s a politician. There’s nothing to suggest he changed for any reason other than professional gain. He is right, people have a right to doubt him. It’s justified.

    He, like many, doesn’t understand how faith works. Faith has to be justified on something. I trust my employers to pay me every two weeks because they have for a while now, and they’ve done the same with my coworkers.

    He needs a similar track record before he can justifiably ask for “a little faith”.

  • smrnda

    I have a hard time deciding how full of shit a politician can be. True, they’ll say what’s expedient, but they are people and as human beings, they can’t avoid having *some* strong opinions.

    I’m from Illinois, and I recall when Mark Kirk, as a Republican came out in favor of marriage equality. He took a lot of shit from other party members for that, and I have no idea what happened to him (haven’t really kept up.)

    Let’s see how strong of an ally this guy turns out to be.

  • Isn’t that a gay smirk in the photo (no offense to gays)?

  • jwissick

    I was a republican too… And I agree with him. I left because they went batshit crazy.

  • graciebaddog

    Right on….why are are people surprised when poltics breaks out when talking to politician. He is on the right side now. My read is he is way more comfortable on this side of LGBT rights and apologizes for being wrong. Take it as win and look for the next politician to move in the right direction.

  • Whitney Currie

    Is it any wonder? I mean, these days it sure seems like American politics is little more than a game of dodge ball with grenades for balls. To be successful, it’s required at times to do what’s expedient, even if it’ll come back to bite.

    Doesn’t make it right, of course, but it’s pretty much normal these days.

  • CanuckAmuck

    I’d say your comment was moronic, but that’d be offensive to morons.

  • Guest

    The man was willing to publicly denounce manly Republican’ism’, and claim his former enemy’s allegiance, and you’re wanting exactly what else from a former government job holder? What exactly is he capable of, as of right now, that would appease you? Was he actually seeking the term, ‘advocate’?

  • Jeff See

    The man was willing to publicly denounce manly Republican’ism’, and claim his former enemy’s allegiance, and you’re wanting exactly what else from a former government job holder? What exactly is he capable of, as of right now, that would appease you? Was he actually seeking the term, ‘advocate’, or was he simply trying to make amends?

    Edit, again: I don’t blame doubt, because someone who turns in their coat,,
    But seriously, that’s a lot of self debasement for someone who was in with the GOP.

  • The closet is a sick place.

  • midnight rambler

    Crist comes across kind of like someone said about Rudy Giuliani – he does even care enough to lie to us. To come up with a believable, sincere-sounding explanation that his views changed, he met with real people and saw the impact on their lives, etc. etc. At least that way is somewhat harder to tell from a genuinely sincere change of heart. Crist here is just “I’m sorry, let’s move on”. With that kind of response, you might as well just come out and announce “Yes, I switched before for nakedly political reasons, and now that things have changed I’m doing it again”.

  • Patrick

    I don’t really understand the objection. If you can accurately point out when a politician is sincere in his beliefs and not just saying what he thinks people want to hear, you’re a much, much better judge of character than I am. This is politics. No one is actually sincere in their beliefs. Calling Crist to task for this is like yelling at a baby for shitting in it’s diaper. Its what they do. Just vote for the guy or gal who will vote your way on the issues you care about. Whether they actually care about those issues is largely irrelevant.

  • Atheist for human rights

    Crist is a well known closeted gay politician. So I’m pretty sure he means it.

  • $84687101

    Harsh. At least it isn’t a notpology, it’s a real apology. And he gave a reason: he was trying to be a good republican, because that’s what he was raised to be. Maybe that also involved votes, I’m sure it did. Do you want a working politician to outright admit he’s fickle and blown by the political winds? Not likely. No one has to accept his apology, or even believe it. I firmly believe that anti-marriage amendments are so deeply wrong that supporting one is one of the worst things a politician can have in their past. But he did at least apologize. Funny how some of the gay press (not you) seem to be more friendly to the god damned pope, who still fights marriage equality and even adoption tooth and nail than to a politician who says he was terribly wrong and he’s sorry.

    So the question that remains is, how can Crist make amends? Right now the most important political issue to me is a referendum to eliminate our anti-marriage amendment and replace it with one making marriage equality the law of the land. If Crist made that his top priority in Florida, making public statements, supporting a petition drive, donating money, whatever it took, would that be making amends? Is there more he has to do?

  • Well, I’m truly sorry – the moronic expression in that photo just brought out the moron in me. But then again, MAYBE I was trying to point out a potential hypocrisy – if Crist happens to be a gay man who beats up on gays for political gain, he would not be the first! True or false, it’s just a guess. It’s NOT to mischaracterize gays in any way, it’s about human nature – it’s what people will resort to in order to ensure their own self-preservation.

    There’s a new word, “irony” – you may want to look it up!

  • Nomad

    I don’t see what more he can do here. Camille says she wanted him to atone for his sins, but instead all he did was admit he was wrong. But… what more was he supposed to do in this situation? He said he was wrong, and he apologized for it. The idea seems to be that atonement takes actions, but what action was he expected to take in an interview? Self flagellation? Magically give same sex couples across America the right to marry their partners?

    As far as I can see he said all he could. If he’s being asked to walk the walk now that he’s talked the talk, then fair enough, but he has to be given a chance to do it first before you criticize him.

  • smrnda

    Yeah, I mean, Eisenhower was a Republican. If Eisenhower was around today, the Republicans would be saying he’s an evil commie anti-Christ.

  • Yes, it’s not much of a secret. But the “apology” reminds me of Clinton’s excuse for signing DOMA. Expediency is not much of an excuse. Florida still bans not only gay marriage but adoption by gay couples. If he were really sorry he’d be working hard to undo the damage his former party did to gay people in his state. Words are cheap. I’m only impressed by what people do.

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