Jeb Bush Says Christian Business Owners Can Refuse To Serve Gay Weddings

05/17/2015 05:02 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015
  • Marina Fang Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that Christian business owners should not have to provide services for gay weddings if it goes against their religious beliefs.

“Yes, absolutely, if it’s based on a religious belief,” he said when asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview Saturday if businesses should be able to decline services to same-sex weddings.

The former Florida governor justified his position by claiming that not providing a service does not count as discrimination if business owners feel that it violates their religious rights.

“A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” he said. “This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.”

The blurry distinction has become a controversial topic, as many wedding-related businesses around the country, like florists and bakeries, have turned down gay customers, citing religious freedom. The issue became politically charged in March, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which allows businesses to cite religious rights as a reason for refusing service. Many in the GOP presidential field, including Bush, defended the law. “Once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all,” he said in March.

After widespread backlash, Pence was forced to sign a revised version of the law, which delineated that businesses could not discriminate against customers and clients on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. But gay rights advocates argued that the revised law did little to amend the original one, and that it still leaves much room for interpretation and opens the door for discrimination.

In Saturday's interview, Bush also reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, saying that gay marriage is not a constitutional right and that "we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage." He did say last month that he would attend a gay wedding if asked.

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