Florida Gov. Rick Scott really doesn’t want to talk about gay marriage.
The first-term Republican governor, who has opposed legal same-sex marriage since his 2010 race, is revealing his discomfort with his longstanding position as he runs a tough reelection race against Democrat Charlie Crist — who embraced marriage equality more than a year ago. Over the weekend Scott refused to say if he supports a judge’s recent ruling in favor of gay marriage in the Florida Keys.
“Nobody wants discrimination in our state,” the governor told reporters in Bonita Springs, according to the Miami Herald. He added that he believes in “traditional marriage” as well as citizens’ access to courts.
Reporters, dissatisfied with the non-answer, kept pressing Scott, leading to this remarkable exchange captured by the Herald’s Marc Caputo:
“Aren’t you trying to have it both ways?” WPLG’s Michael Putney asked Scott Friday in Miami.
“People have different view about it our state,” Scott replied. “But in 2008, the voters decided that this state would be a traditional marriage state. It’s going through the court system. But what’s important to me is I don’t want anybody discriminated against.”
Putney: Aren’t gays being discriminated against?
Scott: “I’m against any discrimination. But in 2008, the voters decided this would be a traditional marriage state.”
Putney: “Are you…”
Scott (cutting him off): “Let’s talk about jobs – 37,000 jobs in a month! It’s the biggest jump!
Scott’s office didn’t return requests for clarification on his position by press time.
Scott has a reputation in Florida for dodging questions, and in this case the state’s shift in public support for gay marriage helps explain his equivocations on marriage equality. In January, surveys began to detect plurality support for legal same-sex marriage in Florida, and by the end of April that turned into a clear majority according to a Quinnipiac survey.
In late June, Scott gave a similarly evasive answer when asked about gay marriage. “People have different views, but by constitution in Florida — there was an amendment in 2008 — the voters said marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said, according to Fox13. “Now what’s important to me is that we don’t discriminate against anybody, but I’d be surprised if a court is going to overturn the people.”
The state of Florida is appealing the judge’s ruling against the gay marriage prohibition, but proponents of the ban say it’s doing so unenthusiastically. After a hearing last week, Mathew Staver of the conservative Liberty Counsel lamented to reporters that the state attorney general’s office was hardly making a case for the gay marriage ban and instead “giving only window dressing to the Florida Marriage Amendment.”
Scott’s troubles are a microcosm of what Republican governors — particularly in blue and purple states — are facing, caught between their conservative base and a tidal wave of support for legal gay marriage among their constituents.
Democrats pounced on behalf of their candidate, Crist, a Republican turned independent turned Democrat.
“It’s no surprise that a guy who refused to answer questions 75 times under oath to avoid incriminating himself keeps dodging questions – but Rick Scott’s evasiveness on everything from the minimum wage to marriage equality to high-speed rail only reminds middle-class voters that he can’t be trusted to fight for them,” Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, said in an email.