Did you ever think you’d live to see the day when former President George Bush not only attended a same-sex wedding but actually signed the marriage certificate as an official witness? Of course, this is Bush pere, not fils, but still. George H.W. was an honored guest on Sept. 21 at the wedding of Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen in Kennebunkport, ME. The other official witness: Bush’s wife and former first lady Barbara Bush.
It’s kind of hard not to read this as an official endorsement of marriage equality, though the Bush’s spokesman simply said that the couple were attending a private ceremony. However, George and Barbara are hardly out of step with the rest of the family. In fact, a look at the Bush family shows that there are only a couple of high-profile holdouts when it comes to marriage equality. And, no surprise, given the state of the GOP, they are the ones closest to elected office.
Here’s a rundown of where the Bushes stand on marriage.
George W. Bush
The former president famously made a feast on homophobia, and in particular marriage homophobia, in 2004, using the issue as a key get-out-the-vote strategy for evangelicals. Since leaving office in 2009, W. has been by and large silent on most public issues, including his father’s witnessing a same-sex marriage, but he did get asked about marriage equality during an trip to Africa last July. At the time, Bush got all Biblical, saying, ““I shouldn’t be taking a speck out of someone else’s eye when I have a log in my own.” (Forest is more like it.) Asked later to elaborate, all Bush would say is “it’s very important for people not to be overly critical of someone else until you’ve examined your own heart.’ After the 2004 campaign, we didn’t know he had one. Bush is the only living ex-president who has not endorsed marriage equality.
During an appearance on the Larry King show, the former first lady said that same-sex couples “ought to have the same rights that everyone else has.” Not surprisingly, George W.’s wife says that marriage equality is a point of contention between her and her husband. But when a pro-marriage group included a clip of the interview in a public service announcement, Laura objected, and the clip was pulled.
In comparison to his brother, the former Florida governor is a beacon of humanity. Of course, he’s still a pretty dim bulb. Jeb has floundered on the issue of marriage equality, trying to have it both ways. He has said he prefers it to be a state-by-state issue, which is a nice way of saying, “I don’t want to take responsibility for actually supporting it.” At the same time, Jeb believes that the “traditional marriage is what should be sanctioned.” Such fence-straddling won’t play in today’s GOP, and if Jeb continues to harbor presidential ambitions, he’ll be hard put to find middle ground on a black-and-white issue.
The daughter of George W. has been the Bush most outspoken in her support of marriage equality. She taped a video calling on New York State to pass marriage equality legislation, a public break from her father on the issue. No doubt having a lot of gay friends has helped.
Barbara’s twin sister hasn’t tipped her hand publicly about what she thinks of marriage equality. Perhaps her role as a correspondent for the Today show has kept her quiet, or perhaps she’s less inclined to buck her dad publicly. About the most Jenna has offered was an off-hand comment to Ellen DeGeneres when she was preparing to marry Portia de Rossi in 2008. During an appearance on her show, Ellen asked Jenna if she could borrow the Bush ranch for her wedding because it was so private. “Sure,” Jenna replied. That’s the one-word total of her commitment to marriage equality.
Main photo credit: Helen Thorgalsen’s Facebook page