At a visit to the Puritan Backroom diner in New Hampshire yesterday, Marco Rubio (R) was confronted by a gay man about the issue of marriage equality. The answer not only revealed another robotic answer from the candidate, but how little he understands the issue and its importance in people’s lives.
Timothy Kierstead, who is 50, married, and a father of three, asked Rubio, “Why do you want to put me back in the closet?” He replied, “I don’t. You can live any way you want.”
This answer did not satisfy Kierstead, who explained that Rubio’s opposition to marriage equality — to the existence of his family — amounted to him declaring “we don’t matter.” Rubio reiterated his belief that “marriage is between one man and one woman,” adding, “I think that’s what the law should be. And if you don’t agree you should have the law changed by a legislature.”
This is one of Rubio’s familiar talking points. It’s been eight months since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling establishing marriage equality nation-wide, but Rubio still insists that state legislatures should be able to set their own marriage law. He rejects the reality that any such law banning same-sex couples from marrying is guaranteed to be unconstitutional in a post-Obergefell world.
“I think it’s bad law,” he said on Meet The Press in December. “And for the following reason: If you want to change the definition of marriage, then you need to go to state legislatures and get them to change it. Because states have always defined marriage.” Explaining that he doesn’t believe “case law” equals “settled law,” he promised to appoint Supreme Court justices that will “interpret the Constitution as originally constructed,” to restore this power to the states.
But Rubio’s interaction with Kierstead reveals how this is another of the candidate’s rehearsed speeches. Long before the Supreme Court got involved, the New Hampshire legislature did act to define marriage on its own. After some negotiation, both the House and the Senate approved a bill by a majority vote recognizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire. It has been legal there since January 1, 2010. Rubio’s assumption that the Supreme Court overturned every state’s marriage law simply doesn’t apply to New Hampshire.
It’s no surprise that Kierstead’s reaction to the interaction was that the Republican candidates — all of whom oppose same-sex marriage — “want to take my rights away as a citizen of the United States.” Rubio had told him that he didn’t think his family was a family, that he doesn’t think the Constitution protects his family, and that he would advocate that the legislature change the law back to no longer recognize his family.
In Saturday’s debate, Rubio once again insisted that he is not a bigot for opposing same-sex marriage. “I don’t believe that believing in traditional marriage the way I do makes you a bigot or a hater,” he said. “It means that you believe that this institution that’s been around for millennia is an important cornerstone of society. I respect people that believe differently, but believe deeply that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”