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Jeb Bush: No constitutional right to same-sex marriage

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he does not believe gay people have a constitutional right to be married, and that businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex weddings if it's "based on a religious belief."

"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," Bush said in the interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. "This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now."

The question of whether businesses should have to serve same-sex weddings has been recently thrust into the spotlight by laws in several states that aim to protect business owners who have religious objections to same-sex marriage from having to participate in a gay wedding.

Bush was also asked whether he believes the constitution entitles gay couples to marriage rights. He replied, "I don't, but I'm not a lawyer, and clearly this has been accelerated at a warp pace.

"What's interesting is four years ago, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had the same view that I just expressed to you," he said. "Thousands of years of culture and history is just being changed at warp speed. It's hard to fathom why it is this way."

"To imagine how we are going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, committed child-centered family system, is hard to imagine," he added. "We need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage."

Bush, who was raised in the Episcopal Church but converted to Catholicism in 1995, leaned on his adopted faith to explain his stance.

"I think traditional marriage is a sacrament," he said. "It's at the core of the Catholic faith."

Bush appears to be stepping up his courtship of the religious right as he prepares to formally launch a 2016 presidential bid. He delivered the commencement address earlier this month at Liberty University, an evangelical college in Virginia, where he condemned Democrats for taking an "aggressive stance" against "religious freedom" and criticized the judiciary for "imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution."

He has at times projected a more inclusive tone on the issue, though, emphasizing the need to "respect" gay couples "making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections."

"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law," he said in a statement to The New York Times in January after a court ruling effectively legalized gay marriage in Florida.