Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio warned in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network published online Tuesday that Christianity faces a “real and present danger” from same-sex marriage supporters who cast opponents as prejudiced.
“We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech, because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater,” Rubio told David Brody, CBN News’ chief political correspondent.
“So what’s the next step after that? After they’re done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech,” the Florida senator continued. “And that’s a real and present danger."
His remarks were widely disseminated by Right Wing Watch, part of the liberal group People For the American Way, which suggested Rubio called gay rights a “real and present danger” — though the senator was referring to people who label Christians “haters.”
Rubio and other 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls have struggled with rapidly shifting public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage. They don’t want to turn off younger voters, including Republicans, who favor the unions, but also risk upsetting the GOP’s evangelical Christian base if they don’t advocate for traditional marriage between one man and one woman.
In an interview with Brody last week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called traditional marriage “a sacrament” and, like Rubio, said he doesn’t believe there’s a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on that question this summer.
“What’s interesting is, four years ago, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had the same view that I just expressed to you,” Bush told Brody. “It’s thousands of years of culture and history just being changed at warp speed. It’s hard to fathom why it is this way.”
Both Rubio and Bush are practicing Roman Catholics who have said legalizing same-sex marriage should be decided on a state-by-state marriage. Rubio has run counter to some social conservatives by saying sexual orientation is something people are born with.
Nationwide, polls show a majority of Americans approve of same-sex marriage. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month found that a record high 61 percent supported same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is legal in 37 states, including Florida, and the District of Columbia.