While most of Florida's antigay Republicans spent this week scrambling to avoid having to say anything specific about marriage, Senator Marco Rubio was cornered by Politico on Thursday and managed to squeak out what he apparently feels passes for a talking point.
"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," he told Politico. "You go through the legislature, or you go on the ballot, but I don’t agree the courts have the power to do this."
Rubio is incorrect that courts cannot review the constitutionality of a law, of course, but it's unlikely that his concern for the legal process is sincere. Had the federal court sided with Rubio's conservative base — upholding a marriage ban, for example, or limiting access to reproductive health care — the Senator would surely have instead praised the judiciary.
Rubio isn't alone in offering an uncomfortable soundbite this week. Attorney General Pam Bondi avoided questions on the topic this week, refusing to address any specifics. Her voice wavered before she excused herself with the explanation "I lost my mom."
Meanwhile, Jeb Bush mostly offered vague quotes such as "it's been overturned, I guess," and "respect the rule of law" and "show respect." Although Bush acknowledged that same-sex couples are "making lifetime commitments to each other [and] are seeking greater legal protections," he added that "marriage is a sacrament" and that he wants to "safeguard religious liberty," signaling his apparent belief that same-sex couples don't consider marriage a sacrament.
Republicans now find themselves in a difficult position: opposing marriage equality, once a winning position for their party, is increasingly seen as a regressive deal-breaker by young and even moderate voters. Entrenched politicians are finding it difficult to switch to a winning side, having eagerly embraced antigay rhetoric when it was convenient to do so.
As a result, we're seeing lawmakers like Rubio floundering when asked to explain their position. Doubtlessly, Rubio would like nothing more than to avoid the topic altogether, but instead he found himself stammering to Politico that "if they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it," and "I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts."
Rubio graduated cum laude with a law degree from the University of Miami School of Law. He knows perfectly well how judicial review works, and at one point, he probably actually cared.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece erroneously stated that Rubio recieved his juris doctorate from the University of Florida. According to the Senator's biography on his Web page, Rubio obtained his B.S. from the University of Florida, then ultimately received his J.D. from the University of Miami. The Advocate regrets and has amended this error.