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Rubio makes misguided case against the Respect For Marriage Act

To hear Marco Rubio tell it, marriage equality is only a “real” issue when he’s trying to get rid of marriage equality.


When House Democratic leaders moved forward with plans to pass the Respect For Marriage Act, which would codify marriage equality in federal law, it was widely assumed that the Republican minority would balk. That’s largely what happened, though there was more GOP support than generally expected: Nearly four dozen House Republicans broke ranks and supported the legislation.

As the bill headed for the Senate, the conventional wisdom was that the measure would inevitably be derailed by a GOP filibuster. But as yesterday unfolded, those expectations changed.

Indeed, while many Senate Republicans hedged, others actually endorsed the legislation and agreed to serve as co-sponsors. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader in the chamber, conceded, “As you saw, there was a fairly significant vote — bipartisan vote — last night in the House of Representatives. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case in the Senate.”

That said, some Republicans were eager to express their opposition. CNN reported:

Other Republican senators canvassed by CNN, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, said they will vote against the House-passed bill. Rubio dismissed the effort as a “stupid waste of time.”

This is bad argument. After all, the legislation will reach the Senate floor. Time will be allotted for a vote. Voting “yes” will take exactly as much time as voting “no.”

Whether Rubio believes the Senate should tackle other issues or not, he’ll have an opportunity to protect marriage equality. Opposing the legislation because he doesn’t consider it worthy of his time is nonsensical.

The Florida Republican added, “Those aren’t real issues. I’ve never seen a person come up to me and talk about getting rid of gay marriage. This is what [Democrats’] base is demanding that they do.”

First, this still isn’t a policy argument. As Jon Chait explained, “If Rubio believes Thomas’s legal analysis is so crazy it will never win a majority, he is free to say so. And if he believes marriage equality is correct on the merits and deserves to maintain its status, he is free to say that, also. His inability to articulate either point shows the sorry state of a once-energetic conservative crusade.”

Second, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

In November 2015, as part of his ill-fated presidential campaign, Rubio sat down with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, where the GOP senator made clear he wasn’t done fighting against equal marriage rights — even after the Supreme Court had issued its Obergefell ruling.

Rubio described the status quo on same-sex marriage as “current law,” but “not settled law.”

“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called on to participate in that process to try to change it — not ignoring it, but trying to change the law,” the Florida Republican added. “And that’s what we’re endeavoring to do here. I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman.”

In other words, Rubio believed marriage equality was a “real” issue when he wanted to get rid of the civil right, though he now believes it’s not a “real” issue as others try to protect the civil right.

As for the senator’s belief that he’s “never seen a person” come up to him “and talk about getting rid of gay marriage,” Rubio evidently needs a mirror.

As for his colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer extended his enthusiastic support yesterday for the Respect For Marriage Act and vowed to bring the measure to the floor. The New York Democrat added that Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the nation’s first openly LGBTQ senator, is coordinating with Republicans to determine if there are at least 10 GOP members willing to help advance the bill.

Following up on yesterday’s coverage, as a strategic matter, it’s a political dynamic Democrats could exploit either way: If the bill passes, the party will have another bipartisan election-year victory on an issue of great importance to millions of Americans. If Republicans derail it, this becomes another election-year example of the GOP being far from the American mainstream.