The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges means that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide -- a decision derided by some GOP presidential candidates and celebrated by Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton.
Before the 5-4 ruling, about three dozen states, including Florida, allowed same-sex marriage.
For President Barack Obama, the ruling means the fulfillment of a campaign promise he made to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. PolitiFact’s Obameter rated his promise to support the repeal of DOMA as Promise Kept. We also rated his promise to support adoption by same-sex couples as Promsie Kept.
We’ve fact-checked a number of 2016 presidential candidates on LGBT issues or looked at their track record on support for same-sex marriage. Here’s a summary of some of our more notable findings.
GOP presidential contenders
The Democratic National Committee said in December that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush "not only opposes marriage equality, he’s said he ‘personally’ believes gay couples should be banned from adopting children."
As governor, Bush repeatedly said that he opposed gay marriage, though he was reluctant at times to amend the state Constitution, since gay marriage was already banned in state law. Since leaving office, Bush said that he supports "traditional marriage," though he has used a softer tone when asked about it. We rated the DNC’s statement Mostly True.
After the Supreme Court ruling Bush said:
"Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has opposed same-sex marriage but also says that he supports the rights of states to set their own course. We looked into a dispute about whether Rubio ever supported amending the U.S. Constitution to ban marriage; we concluded there was little evidence to show he wanted an amendment. We did not put his statements on our Truth-O-Meter but wrote an article summarizing his views.
After the ruling Rubio said:
"I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.
"While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood."
PolitiFact Wisconsin looked at Gov. Scott Walker’s statements about same-sex marriage. In 2006, Walker supported a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman -- a position he repeated in the 2010 governor’s race. But in May 2014, when the ban was before a federal court, Walker made some comments in which he declined to directly support the ban’s legality.
Walker called the Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling a "grave mistake" and called for a Constitutional amendment allowing states to define marriage.
"As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage," he said.
Both Bush and Rubio disagreed with Walker’s suggestion for an amendment.
Clinton opposed same-sex marriage as a candidate for the Senate, while in office as a senator, and while running for president. She expressed her support for civil unions starting in 2000 and for the rights’ of states to set their own laws in favor of same-sex marriage in 2006.
As polls showed that a majority of Americans supported same-sex marriage, Clinton’s views changed, too. She announced her support for same-sex marriage in March 2013.
It’s up to voters to decide how they feel about her changed stance, but on same-sex marriage we give Clinton a Full Flop. (Since we posted our item on Clinton, on the eve of the court’s decision she released a video reiterating her support and showing clips of same-sex couples getting married.)
The meter is not intended to pass judgment on politicians’ decisions to change their minds. It’s just gauging whether they did.
President Obama now supports gay marriage, but he hasn’t always. He changed position to favor it in 2012, telling journalist Robin Roberts, "At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
We tracked Obama’s evolution over the years in what he had to say on the issues of gay rights and gay marriage. Since he definitely changed position, we rated that a Full Flop on our Flip-O-Meter.
Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Earlier this year, presidential candidates reacted to Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics feared would allow wedding vendors to deny service to gays and lesbians.
Shortly after the law passed in March, Bush said that "Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all."
Florida did pass its own version of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But the laws and the context for their passage are different. Indiana’s law says government doesn’t have to be a party to the case, and it extends protections to corporations, and that’s different from Florida’s law. We rated Bush’s claim Half True.
Amid widespread national criticism, Indiana amended the law in April to offer some protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Walker said that Bill Clinton signed a law "very similar to," and Barack Obama voted for a law "something like," Indiana's RFRA.
The three laws share the same title and much of the same language, but Indiana’s law has at least two significant provisions that the other two laws don’t. Moreover, the federal and Illinois laws were passed with the intent to protect various religious practices from government intervention. We rated this claim Half True.
Hear a claim about same-sex marriage or other topics worthy of a fact-check? #PolitiFactThis or [email protected]
SCOTUS Blog, "Same-sex marriage: The decisive questions," April 26, 2015
Los Angeles Times, "Religious liberty laws dialed back; Leaders of Indiana and Arkansas bow to widespread concerns for LGBT rights," April 3, 2015
PolitiFact, "As the Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage cases, here is a primer," March 26, 2013
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking claims about same-sex marriage," April 27, 2015
See fact-checks for additional sources