Group of conservative Pinellas County residents call on David Jolly to "apologize" for supporting same-sex marriage

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You just knew it couldn't be that clean. 

Less than 48 hours after David Jolly made a statement to the Washington Post announcing his support for same-sex marriage in Florida, now comes the conservative backlash in the form of a letter to the CD13 Representative, in which some 60 Pinellas County residents claim his reversal on marriage is "an act of cowardice and a betrayal."

The letter was prepared by the Florida Family Council, the conservative Orlando-based group that has been one of the state's biggest groups opposing same-sex marriage. CL contacted the leader of that organization, John Stemberger, but he did not return our call for comment.

Jolly told blogger Peter Schorsch on Tuesday that he was surprised his comments made national news Monday night, saying his thoughts began evolving on the issue going back to the late 1990s, and that he expressed support for same-sex marriage on BayNews 9's Political Connections show this spring. He references that in a letter that his office has prepared to send to any constituent who requests more information (that letter is listed below).

But his stance was never really reported on during the campaign. And as one of only eight Republicans in Congress who have come out publicly in support of same-sex marriage, such a stance is going to make news.

But it's doubtful it's going to be a campaign issue, at least this fall. No Republican is running against Jolly in next month's primary election, and no Democrat is facing him in November. His lone opponent in November, Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby, also supports same-sex marriage. 

Like the Florida Family Council, Overby is of the opinion that Jolly has reversed his campaign stance on the issue, telling the Examiner, "I would like to personally thank him for making such an about-face on such an important issue in just a few months and welcome the Congressman to the conversation."

Wednesday evening, Jolly released a letter that his office says will be sent to any constituent who wants to know more about his stance on the issue. Listed below is Jolly's letter.

Dear Friend:

Thank you for sharing with me your concerns regarding a recent statement I issued on marriage and the state’s recognition of marriage.

I fully recognize that this is a difficult issue for many people. More importantly, for some on both sides of the debate, it is not a difficult issue – their beliefs are very strongly held. I understand that as well. I have pledged from the time I entered into electoral politics in October 2013 to not shy from difficult issues, to not dodge hard questions, and to serve with a spirit that I believe we need more of in politics – honesty. If an issue is difficult or challenging, I acknowledge it as such but I am forthcoming and explain where I stand, I ask others where they stand, I identify ways to find common ground, and where we can’t I always pledge to work together constructively, respectfully and with a spirit of inclusiveness.

And so I fully appreciate your concerns and take them very seriously. Some have suggested that my recent statement expressing that I believe the foundations of a couple’s marriage should be dictated only by their faith, their God, and their church reflect a change in my position on the matter. If that were the case, you rightfully should be concerned because it would suggest that I have not been honest – it would call into question my integrity. However, my position has not changed on this matter and my recent statement reflected exactly statements that I made during this year’s special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

I appreciate the opportunity through this letter to explain in further detail.

At the outset, I would most respectfully refer you to a previous statement I made on a television news program and covered by our local media outlets in February of this year, during the height of the special election and several weeks before election day. In my statement in February, which can be found at, I stated, “I think the sanctity of one’s marriage is between the two partners and their God. I don’t look to the state for the sanctity of marriage. And so, I’m okay if the state adopts a same-sex marriage amendment. I do think it’s a state’s rights issue.” And I continued, “I am okay (if Florida said and voters decided same sex marriage is fine). Listen, as a matter of my Christian faith, and this is a principal of my Christian faith, I do believe in traditional marriage as defined biblically. But I also, as a matter of my Christian faith, I know we’re not to judge and I know different people have different views on faith. I’m not threatened by how the state defines marriage. I know how me, my church, my God define marriage. I respect the fact that others can define it their own way.” And thus my statement that was widely circulated earlier this week in the media is fully consistent with my previous statement from February.

Additionally, I have had many opportunities to discuss this issue with communities of faith over the past many months. And I have consistently held to the same convictions that have been and remain the foundation of my position on this issue today.

First, I remain a person of strong Christian faith and of the teachings of my faith, including those of traditional marriage. On that I have not changed. I know that we each have our failings and rely on the strength and salvation of a loving God, and occasionally I am asked to share these beliefs with communities of faith, particularly in the context of my new role as a Member of Congress. The most common question is how do I demonstrate my faith within the halls of Congress. My answer is simple. I do not apologize for my Christian faith or my Christian beliefs. Yet I don’t demand that others subscribe to the same. I simply hope that through personal statements and actions of honesty and integrity, I am able to live out the teachings of my faith. This is a spirit I tried to demonstrate during the special election and is the same spirit I carry today. And I believe the news stories of recent days reflect that I do not shy away from my faith, as virtually all coverage of this matter has included my convictions on traditional marriage.

Second, I believe that marriage is a 10th Amendment matter. I believe in the Constitutional principle of federalism. On that I have not changed. As a voter, as a resident, I must decide what laws I believe best reflect the fundamental protections of individual liberty, and therefore as I apply my constitutional convictions to the issue of marriage, I believe a state should recognize the legality and validity of both traditional marriage and same sex marriage.

Third, I believe a couple should never need to look to their state, their county, or any form of government for the sanctity of their marriage. That sanctity is between a couple, whether of the same sex or opposite sex, and their God, or between a couple and their fundamental beliefs of marriage. On that I have not changed. And it is a principle that I have stated clearly in the past, including in the February interview referred to earlier.

Beginning with my study of constitutional law after enrolling in law school in 1997, I realized that the constitutional principles of limited government, of federalism, and of individual liberty that I believe inspire the greatness of America challenged at times my own tenets of faith. I am a Christian. I believe the teachings of the Bible and accept them as God’s word to man. Accordingly, as a matter of my Christian faith I believe in the teachings of the Book of Genesis that the God in whom I put my faith created man and woman for each other. But those are the teachings of my faith. And just as I ask for and defend the Constitutional protections of religious liberty that allow me to practice my faith, the foundation of our Constitution requires me to also defend and insist on exactly the same Constitutional protections of religious liberty that allow others to practice their faith.

As this applies to the institution of marriage, therefore, I personally believe as a matter of my Christian faith in traditional marriage. But as a matter of constitutional principle, I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty, and therefore I believe all individuals, all couples should be allowed to determine the sanctity of their marriage by their own faith or their own beliefs of marriage. For those of us in the Christian faith community who believe in traditional marriage, I personally don’t believe decisions a state government may make on marriage or civil unions should have any impact, nor be any threat to the sanctity of marriage. However, where a state stands in the way of someone who believes otherwise, who believes in the institution of same sex marriage, I believe such a restriction does compromise the doctrine of individual liberty that is at the very foundation of our Constitution.

I consider serving as your Member of Congress to be a very serious job, and I try to serve every day with great deliberation. As I try every day to serve with honesty, with integrity, and openness, I will continue to keep my word, both to those with whom I agree and to those with whom I may disagree. I thoroughly consider every action I take and every vote I cast, both with a conviction of what I believe is right for the future of our country, but also for what I believe rightfully represents the views of our very diverse community. And I do so each day acting within what I believe are the constitutional principles upon which our nation was founded, principles of personal freedom and individual liberty, even when the result is one that may conflict with my own beliefs of faith.

Perhaps the greatest teaching of the Christ in whom I put my faith is that of love. We are called upon to demonstrate love for our fellow man, each of us of whom are created in God’s image. I hope to demonstrate that spirit each and every day as I try to honor the remarkable life opportunity and privilege that our community has entrusted with me, the honor and responsibility to represent Pinellas County in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Know that my door is always open. I take very seriously the thoughts and concerns of every member of our community, and particularly so on issues like that of marriage which today seems to incite much controversy. I hope one day we as a community and as a nation can find agreement on this matter. Until then, I am grateful to know of your conviction on this issue and will continue to treat it with exceeding respect.

Very sincerely,

David W. Jolly

And here's the Florida Family Council's letter in full:

Dear Congressman Jolly,

We recently learned of the complete reversal of your position on homosexual marriage from the Washington Post. Please know how profoundly disappointed we are in this decision.

So many of us worked, walked, called, gave money and voted to help you get elected and defeat the liberal Democrat Alex Sink because you personally assured us that you were a conservative Republican who believed that marriage was between one man and one woman.

In church after church, you publicly stated your support for the policy behind Florida's law and Florida's constitution which clearly defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, as over 30 other states have done.

Just months ago, you told us that you supported a "state's right" to define marriage which is consistent with the holding of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case of U.S. vs. Windsor — yet now you are completely failing to support your own state's law and the constitutional mandate passed by five million Floridians.

You ran for office in Florida's Congressional District 13, which is completely contained within Pinellas County where 54.3% of the voters voted in favor of marriage being between one man and one woman in 2008.

You ran for Congress as a member of the Republican Party with a platform clearly affirming that "marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard" and now you have turned your back on this standard.

By agreeing with the judge's recent ruling in Monroe County, you promote the fiction that Florida's marriage laws have been declared unconstitutional by some legitimate authority. The Federal Courts have clearly not given their final word on this matter and the ruling is being appealed by Florida's Attorney General.

Even worse, when you agree with this lower court's opinion, you also agree with his irresponsible claim that citizens in your district who passed the marriage amendment were motivated by "animus" or hatred toward gay-identified persons. Nothing could be further from the truth or more morally repugnant to us, as we all affirm the inherent dignity and value of every human being.

We reject your illusory and false dichotomy between your "personal views" and "public views" as a legislator as you made no such distinction during your campaign. Liberals for years have made the same arguments to deceptively triangulate on other moral issues.

You make much of talking about the government having no place protecting the "sanctity of marriage," which misses the point and is an argument no one is making.

Your statements in the Washington Post are not those of a serious-minded and thoughtful legislator who understands the state's compelling interest in the economic and social implications inherent within the institutions of marriage and family.

We are profoundly disappointed in this announcement and now we can only wonder what other issues you might change your views on. Please know that we consider your reversal on this critical issue to be an act of cowardice and a betrayal to the very persons that worked extremely hard to get you elected to office.

We call upon you to publicly apologize for this mistake and hold fast to your original position that states should define marriage as it has always been, the union of one man and one woman only. We also challenge you to not cower to the pressure, demands and intimidation of homosexual activists. Finally, we exhort you to be governed not by polls, politics and profits but instead to be governed by principle and what is in the best interest of children, families and the common good of society. Your future as the Congressman representing us in Florida's District 13 is counting on it.

Respectfully, your campaign volunteers, financial supporters and constituents:

Regina Brown, Florida Family Action

Rex Brown, Contractor, Largo

Mark Phillips, Florida Family Action, Dunedin

John Burgess, Retired, St. Pete

Betsy Burgess, Retited, St. Pete

Rev. Glenn Pav, Largo

Nancy Davis, Retired, Seminole

Pastor Randy Morris, Seminole

Tom Beckwith, Business Owner

Liddora Beckwith, Seminole

Pastor Anthony McDaniel

Kendra McDaniel, Clearwater

Pastor Duran Carder

Shannon Carder, Largo

Tina Neuhauser, Largo

Anthony Neuhauser, Largo

Rev. David Tristani, St. Pete

Pastor Kyle Mills, Largo

Pastor Garrett Mills, Clearwater

Pastor Anel Avila

Emily Avila, St Pete

Emily Gibson Walker

Joel Walker, Largo

Laura Works, Largo

Darl Works, Largo

Joanne Neuhauser, Largo

Bruce Bacon

Delane Bacon, Largo

Bronson Oudshoff

Misty Oudshoff, Clearwater

Gery Cuprisin

Dyan Cuprisin, Largo

Mark Kober, Largo

Paula Dorzuk, Largo

James Free

Jackie Free, Largo

Candis Flores, Largo

Joe Cortese

Pam Cortese, Largo

Mike Delana

Jen Delana, Largo

Anthony Utegaard

Leah Utegaard, Largo

Kimberly Joly, Largo

Judith Goldsberry, Clearwater

Stephanie McCaffery, Largo

Randy Carter

Donna Carter, Largo

Markas Bell, Tampa

Douglas Hill

Jennifer Hill, Dunedin

Stew Bottorf

Jean Bottorf, Dunedin

Pastor Curtis Swan, Dunedin

Ronald Curvello

Kristin Curvello, Dunedin

Alexa McDaniel, Largo

Alivia McDaniel

Ann Kennedy, Dunedin

Irene Desouza, Dunedin

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