Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) lashed out at LGBT advocates on Wednesday for pursuing marriage rights for same-sex couples in the courts, but those advocates in turn criticized him for supporting prohibitions on gay nuptials.
In a pair of interviews, the potential Republican 2016 presidential contender expressed dismay with court actions in his state that this week made his state the 36th in the country to have marriage equality.
Speaking to Politico, Rubio argued that supporters of same-sex marriage should have taken the issue to the ballot box or the legislature instead.
“If they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it,” Rubio was quoted as saying. “I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts.”
Rubio added he doesn’t believe the courts have the power to overturn state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
“While I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, while people want to change that law — and a lot of people apparently do – there is a way to do that,” Rubio said. “You go through the legislature, or you go on the ballot, but I don’t agree the courts have the power to do this.”
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said Rubio demonstrates a misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution and the purpose of a federal judiciary.
“Sen. Rubio seems indifferent to why we have a Constitution and why we have courts, or else he wouldn’t be condemning the courts for upholding constitutional guarantees of equal protection and the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “Over 60 courts now, state and federal, with judges appointed by Republican as well as Democratic governors and presidents alike, have found that discriminatory restrictions on the freedom to marry (some enacted by legislatures, some by ballot-measure attacks) violate our Constitution.”
Wolfson added, “The Constitution is there to protect all of us, as are courts — a mighty relief when senators like Rubio are so willing to play with fire near our precious charter of freedom.”
In a separate interview with CNN, Rubio raised the possibility of a Federal Marriage Amendment to ban same-sex marriage throughout the country, although he acknowledged chances of it succeeding are slim.
“I wouldn’t agree with their ruling, but that would be the law of the land that we would have to follow until it’s somehow reversed — either by a future Supreme Court, or a U.S. constitutional amendment, which I don’t think is realistic or foreseeable,” Rubio reportedly said.
In his interview, Rubio said he would respect court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage, even though he disagrees with the decisions.
“My position on [gay marriage] is pretty well known. I mean, I believe that the institution of marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. I understand that voters in some states have changed that, and I respect it,” Rubio was quoted as saying. “And, you know, we have a court system that’s beginning to weigh in — and whatever the law is, we’re going to abide by it and respect it.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, criticized Rubio for raising the possibility of a Federal Marriage Amendment, which was twice defeated in Congress during the Bush administration.
“It’s surprising to see it was Marco Rubio of all people to be the first of all potential GOP presidential hopefuls to raise the specter of an anti-gay federal marriage amendment,” Angelo said. “We’ve crossed the Rubicon on federal recognition of committed same-sex couples. It’s interesting to see, however, that a shrug of the shoulders and washing of hands will be the likely message from opponents of marriage equality should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the constitutional right of civil marriage partnerships for same-sex couples.”
It’s no secret that Rubio is an opponent of same-sex marriage. Amid the perception that he’s considering a presidential run, Rubio made his views on gay nuptials known, and decried the “intolerance” of supporters of marriage equality, during a speech in July at Catholic University.
“Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage,” Rubio said at the time. “And if support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who has already declared his support for same-sex marriage, on Wednesday added his name as the 43rd co-sponsor in the Senate to the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation that would fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
And Rubio’s most recent remarks stand in contrast to Jeb Bush, who said he’s considering a run for the White House. Although the told The Miami Herald marriage should be a local issue, the former Florida governor issued a statement to The New York Times that was softer in tone.
“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush reportedly said. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”
Rob Flaherty, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, took both Rubio and Bush to task for failing to support same-sex marriage despite the advancement of marriage equality.
“Marco Rubio talks a lot about how he represents a new wave of thinking in the GOP, yet his retro positions on equality are a continued reminder that he’s just more of the same,” Flaherty said. “Not only does he support banning marriage for LGBT couples, he thinks we should use taxpayer dollars to cover yet another court appeal. You can’t claim you’re part of a new generation of thinking when you advocate opposition to marriage equality as much as Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and the rest of the anti-equality Republican Party.”