Jeb Bush Sides With Both Same-Sex Couples and Kentucky County Clerk

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Jeb Bush Visits Miami School
Jeb Bush, the Schrödinger's cat of civil rights issues. Photo: Johnny Louis/2015 Johnny Louis

Many presidential candidates have staked out a position on Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and on Thursday evening, Jeb Bush explained where he stands on the issue: d) all of the above. “She is sworn to uphold the law,” Bush told reporters in New Hampshire, according to BuzzFeed, suggesting that taking Davis into custody was the right call. However, he went on to explain that while he’s against discrimination, he’s in favor of letting people express their discriminatory religious views. “We shouldn’t be pushing people out of the public square if they have deeply held views, nor should we discriminate against people, particularly after this court ruling as it relates to sexual orientation, so I think there ought to be a way to figure this out,” he said.

It seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be a big enough space for her to act on her conscience, and for now that the law is the law of the land, for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is,” Bush continued. “I’m a little confused about why that can’t be done.”

Noting that it’s “a sign of leadership” to be able to solve such problems, Bush suggested a compromise: Just let someone else in the office issue marriage licenses to gay couples. “There are ways that other places are looking at it, which is to say you don’t have to exercise this responsibility, we’ll have someone else in the office do it, so that you can maintain your religious conscience, which I think is appropriate, but people have the right to get a certificate of marriage.”

Interestingly, they tried that exact solution in Rowan County, Kentucky. U.S. District judge David Bunning offered to let Davis out of jail if she’d promise not to interfere with her deputies issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but she rejected the offer. Five of the county’s six deputies have agreed to grant the licenses (the sixth is Davis’s son).

Bush also suggested that these situations “ought to be resolved at the local level,” though Davis tried to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court because that’s how the U.S. legal system works.