WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly defended his decision to support same-sex marriage since fielding conservative ire after his announcement Monday.
Jolly, a freshman who won a special election for the seat in March, became the eighth Republican in Congress to publicly back gay marriage following a Florida judge's decision to strike down the state's ban.
"As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage," Jolly told the Washington Post. "But as a matter of constitutional principle I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty."
"To me, that means that the sanctity of one's marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state," he said. "Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge."
On Wednesday, some five dozen conservative "campaign volunteers, financial supporters and constituents" wrote an open letter to Jolly, saying they felt betrayed by his announcement and pressed him to "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," the letter said. "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."
But Jolly insists he did not reverse his previous position, but rather he had simply clarified the beliefs that he espoused through the primary and special election this winter. Responding in a letter of his own, Jolly defended his faith and his belief that the sanctity of marriage ought to be between a couple and their church, not government.
"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," he said. "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."
Jolly is expected to easily win his bid for a first full term this November, he faces independent Michael Levinson and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the upcoming election.