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Crist: Gay civil unions 'fine'

He also says on a radio talk show that he hasn't decided whether Florida should lift its ban on letting gays adopt kids.

By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published July 29, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist told a radio talk-show host on Friday that civil unions between gays are "fine."

Crist, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, added that he has not decided whether Florida should lift its long-standing ban on allowing gays to adopt children. He hasn't yet "reached a conclusion," he told Miami radio talk-show host Jim DeFede.

"Haven't taken a position yet," Crist told DeFede.

"Not thought about it one way or the other?" DeFede asked.

"Not extensively," Crist replied. "I haven't reached a conclusion, is what I said."

Later on Friday, when asked to clarify his position, Crist backed away from his radio comments. He told the St. Petersburg Times that he does not support repealing the adoption ban.

"My position is the traditional family is the best to adopt," Crist said.

He called the two sets of statements a "nuance" and said that the issue of gay adoption "is not a major focus of my campaign."

Crist's radio comments marked the second time in recent days that he has taken a position in opposition to the social conservative wing of the Republican Party. Last week, he said he supported legislation passed by Congress to expand embryonic stem cell research, and he disagreed with President Bush's decision to veto the stem cell bill.

Crist said on the radio that civil unions between gays are "fine, but I support marriage between a man and a woman."

Crist's Republican primary opponent, state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, opposes civil unions and gay adoptions. Gallagher's latest TV ad emphasizes his support for family values and his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Gallagher's campaign declined to comment on Crist's statements. But a Gallagher supporter, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, issued a statement accusing Crist of changing his position.

"I am extremely disappointed that Charlie Crist has changed his position on gay adoption, has broken ranks with Gov. Jeb Bush and is considering allowing gay couples to adopt children in Florida," Baxley said.

Baxley cited "research" that concluded that the best environment for adoptive children "is to place them in a home with a mom and a dad."

The Christian Family Coalition, a group that opposes gay adoption, organized an e-mail campaign last March to pressure lawmakers to defeat a bill that would have eased the adoption ban. The bill did not pass.

DeFede, who was fired from his job as a Miami Herald columnist last year for taping an off-the-record conversation without the subject's permission, interviewed Crist on WINZ-AM 940, which calls itself South Florida's "progressive" talk station.

The station's Web site features a countdown clock that ticks off "Days Until President Bush Is Out."

During a sometimes heated exchange between the host and the candidate, DeFede revived a topic Crist faced last year: whether he is gay.

"The point is, I'm not. There's the answer. How do you like it?" Crist said. "Not that there's anything wrong with that, as they say on Seinfeld. But I just happen not to be."

The full interview can be heard online at www.jimdefede.com.

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet is at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.