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Florida's Crist Flips on Gay Rights as an Independent

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As the St. Petersburg Times reports, Florida Governor, and Senate candidate, Charlie Crist has taken a different stance on gay rights issues since switching from a Republican to an Indpendent.

Back in April, the long-time Republican switched parties when, some say, it became obvious he would not win the Republican nomination for Senator.

That switch has left him with some political wiggle room regarding hot button issues such as gay rights. Taking full advantage, on Monday Crist used a position paper to convey his support for civil unions, adoption by same-sex couples, and doing away with the military's ban on openly gay soldiers.

For Crist, that's a big shift. Both of his opponents, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) and Former House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), noted the governor had backed a 2008 amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage, flip-flopped on the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy'' earlier this year, and opposed gay adoption in his 2006 campaign.

In fact, both Meek and Rubio circulated copies of mailers from Crist's 2006 campaign for governor, in which he blasted his Democratic competitor, Jim Davis, for supporting gay adoption, according to the Times. That mailer said Davis "is opposed to traditional families'' and "turned his back on our values."

Equality Florida, the state's leading gay rights group, also noted the change, issuing a statement on its website calling Crist's latest gay rights comments "the most comprehensive, pro-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) equality stand of a sitting governor in Florida's history."

Crist has not changed his stance on gay marriage, however. According to the Tampa Tribune, while he has opposed a U.S. constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, he believes the issue should be left to the states to decide. In 2008, he supported the successful Florida constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Whether or not Crist firmly believes in gay rights or is simply being politically expedient remains to be seen. "It frequently looks as if he's taking positions for political calculation rather than because he thinks it's good policy," University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewet told the Tribune.  "Even moderates often want somebody to have a consistent set of beliefs."

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