Charlie Crist

From our media partner Sun Sentinel - Florida's biggest gay rights group vouched Thursday for the sincerity of Charlie Crist's transition from opponent of same-sex marriage and gays adopting children to ally of the gay and lesbian community.

The political action arm of Equality Florida endorsed Crist's candidacy for governor over his Democratic primary opponent, Nan Rich, whose career has been marked by long-standing support for adoption, marriage and other issues important to gays and lesbians.

"Nan Rich has been a champion, and we hope to see her in office again, but this is not her race. This is a two-person race between [Republican Gov.] Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, and we are focused on November," PAC chairman Stratton Pollitzer said. "It's going to take everything we have to beat Rick Scott given his virtually unlimited resources and his incumbency. There is far too much at stake for our community not to get in this race enthusiastically and immediately."

Crist was elected governor as a Republican in 2006, ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent/no party affiliation candidate in 2010, and is seeking the nomination to run for governor this year as a Democrat.

As the governor, Crist supported the state law banning gays and lesbians from adopting children until it was overturned in the courts. Equality Florida emphasized that once the court ruled, Crist didn't appeal and ordered the Department of Children & Families to stop enforcing the ban.

Crist also supported the 2008 referendum that added a ban on same-sex marriage to the Florida Constitution. In May 2013, as he prepared to run for his old job as a Democrat, Crist said he supported gay marriage. In December, after he became a candidate, Crist told the Orlando gay newspaper Watermark that he was sorry for his past position and asked for forgiveness.

Pollitzer said he accepts the change. "Charlie Crist's position on marriage equality reflects the evolution of Florida voters," he said. "Charlie Crist has taken a clear stand for equality and fairness."

The national gay group Human Rights Campaign also endorsed Crist on Thursday.

Crist was endorsed in April by the South Florida Gay News, which wrote "years ago as the governor Crist did not support the LGBT political agenda. He opposed us. Like many others similarly situated in politics, though, Crist has evolved. Today, he is our friend, and worthy of our support."

And he's received fundraising help from leaders in Fort Lauderdale's gay community, though other gays and lesbians involved in local politics are backing Rich.

Rich said her record on gay-related issues is better than Crist's.

"I [sponsored] the gay adoption issue for seven years in the Legislature. And he was opposed to it all those seven years, and now he's for it… The same thing with marriage equality. In 2008 he signed the petition [to get the referendum on the ballot] banning marriage equality," she said. "My record is there on social justice issues and equality for all people. I have not changed my position."

From our media partner Sun Sentinel