Gay Man to Rubio: 'Why Do You Want to Put Me Back in the Closet?'

Timothy Kierstead and Marco Rubio
New Hampshire resident Timothy Kierstead confronts Rubio.

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, in an exchange with a gay New Hampshire resident today, showed a lack of historical knowledge and got accused of wanting to put LGBT people back in the closet.

Rubio was campaigning today at the Puritan Backroom diner in Manchester, where Timothy Kierstead asked him, “Why do you want to put me back in the closet?” according to The New York Times, which cited press pool reports. Rubio responded, “I don’t. You can live any way you want.”

Kierstead pointed out that he’s a gay man in a same-sex marriage, and said Rubio’s opposition to equal marriage rights shows the U.S. senator from Florida thinks gay people don’t matter. Rubio said, “No, I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”

When Kierstead said, “That’s your belief,” and noted that half the nation disagrees, Rubio replied, “I think that’s what the law should be. And if you don’t agree, you should have the law changed by a legislature.” As Rubio prepared to move on, Kierstead noted that the law already has changed. He could have been referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last year or to the fact that New Hampshire’s marriage law was indeed changed by its legislature to include same-sex couples — back in 2009. And in 2012 the legislature rejected an effort to repeal marriage equality.

Kierstead told reporters afterward that he's a Manchester restaurant owner, a father of three, and a registered independent voter. He will vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday because of Republican opposition to marriage equality, he said. “They want to take my rights away as a citizen of the United States,” he said of Republicans.

It wasn’t the only gay-related conversation Rubio had in the diner, the Times reports. Another patron asked him if U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who recently dropped out of the Republican presidential race, is gay. Rubio chuckled and said no, according to the Times.

The Human Rights Campaign, in a blog post about Rubio’s exchange with Kierstead, stressed that Rubio is staunchly opposed to LGBT rights. He has said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would reverse the marriage equality ruling and has voiced support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow broad exemptions from antidiscrimination law if the discrimination is based on religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage.

“Let’s dispense with this fiction that Marco Rubio is a moderate. He knows exactly what he’s doing when he telegraphs his desire to allow discrimination in last week’s debate, and then tells a married gay man to have the legislature vote on his constitutional rights," JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs, said in the post. “Marco Rubio’s so-called ‘New American Century’ is one in which LGBT people are treated like second-class citizens, where they remain at risk for being fired or denied a job because of who they are or who they love, and where they could lose the right to get married. He’s threatened to revoke, repeal, and overturn the gains made on LGBT equality during President Obama’s two terms in office. Rubio would be a disaster for LGBT Americans, plain and simple.”

Watch a portion of Rubio’s conversation with Kierstead in the video below, from American Bridge 21st Century, and find more Rubio faux pas caught on camera here.