Marco Rubio Panders To The ‘Religious Right’ On Same-Sex Marriage, Obergefell

Marco Rubio is telling conservative Christians in Iowa and elsewhere what they want to hear on same-sex marriage. It just happens to be complete and utter nonsense.

Marco Rubio

In the wake of June’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Florida Senator Marco Rubio departed slightly from the reaction of many of the Republican candidates for President in the wake of the decision that struck down the nation’s remaining state laws barring same-sex couple from marrying. Unlike candidates like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee who decried the ruling as wrong and have gone on to assert that states and individual public officials should feel free to ignore it, Rubio said in a statement immediately after the ruling that while he still believed that the definition of marriage was something that should be left to the states, the Court’s ruling was the law of the land and must be respected. Rubio wasn’t the only candidate who took this position, of course. We also saw Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich issue statements that, while in disagreement with the outcome of the case, stressed that the Court’s decision should be respected as the law of the land.

Recent comments from the junior Senator from Florida, though, who has been moving up in the Presidential polls but still struggles to gain attention from conservative Republicans are causing confusion about where Rubio actually stands when it comes to what was arguably the most significant decision of the Supreme Court’s last term:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio has left voters confused after saying citizens must obey civil authorities but that “God’s rules always win,” leaving some Christian conservatives unsure whether he believes laws concerning issues such as same-sex marriage should be ignored or upheld.

“We are clearly called in the Bible to adhere to our civil authorities. But that conflicts with also our requirement to adhere to God’s rules,” Rubio told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody in an interview published Tuesday. “So when those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win.”

Rubio said during the interview that “we cannot abide by” a government that “is compelling us to sin.” He specifically cited laws that would prevent preaching the Gospel or that require officials to perform same-sex marriages.  While making his point, the Florida senator drew a distinction between “current law” and “settled law,” saying that Christians are called to participate in legal processes to change laws that do not adhere to their religious principles.

“No law is settled — Roe v. Wade is current law, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to aspire to fix it because we think it’s wrong,” he told Brody. “[U]ntil we can get a Supreme Court to overturn Roe versus Wade, we do everything possible within the constraints that it’s placed upon us to confront it and certainly limit the number of abortions and save as many lives as possible.”

He added: “Not ignoring it, but trying to change the law.”

But the Des Moines Register reported Wednesday that Christian conservatives in Iowa were left unsure how exactly Rubio would address the Supreme Court ruling that earlier this year codified same-sex marriage after he delivered a speech Tuesday night.

Iowa pastor Brad Sherman reported a terse exchange with the Rubio campaign’s faith outreach director following the event.

“I asked if Rubio might actually be somewhat aligned with the view that the court’s decision is not really ‘law’ but opinion, and could be ignored, much like Lincoln ignored the Dred Scott decision, a position Mike Huckabee has taken,” Sherman said. “He said Huckabee would be impeached if he was president and did that, and that Huckabee was pandering, just saying that to get votes.”

This isn’t the first time that Rubio has seemed to stir confusion about his position on the Obergefell case and how Republicans should react to it going forward. Back in early September, the Senator appeared to be supportive of Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said on Wednesday that the government should respect the beliefs of the Kentucky county clerk who has denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples, arguing that society needs to accommodate public officials who object to carrying out duties they say violate their religious beliefs.

“We should seek a balance between government’s responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement to The New York Times, his first public remarks on the case.

“While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law,” he added, “there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.”


Mr. Rubio favors broad religious exemptions. “Marriage is the most important institution in our society, and I believe it should be between one man and one woman,” he said in his statement. “Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom, and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is forced by the government to violate their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs about traditional marriage.”

As far as the substance of what Rubio is saying in these new comments, he is, of course, spewing absolute nonsense. While Rubio is correct that no law is ever “settled” in the sense that it is not at least theoretically possible that it could be overturned or change in the future. Indeed, the very nature of our Constitution largely precludes that possibility even when it makes the method of changing the law difficult by requiring supermajorities to amend the Constitution or the consent of all states to change the equal representation nature of the Senate. That does not mean, however, that the law in question is somehow lesser because it could be changed at some point. Rubio’s rhetoric is also similar to comments that conservatives make about judicial rulings in general, or at least the one’s they disagree with, when they argue that such rulings, even when the coming from the Supreme Court of the United States. As a matter of law, of course, it is utter nonsense as the Court itself has made clear on numerous occasions over the years, most notably in Cooper v. Aaron, a case dealing with efforts by southern states to ignore the Court’s rulings on school desegregation. Beyond the legal implications, though, an attitude like the one Rubio is quoted as making here is dangerous because of the manner in which it seeks to subtly reinforce what seems to be a general belief on the right that Court rulings that they disagree with can simply be ignored as illegimate. Add into this the completely nonsensical notion that there’s anything called “God’s Law” that has any legal authority in the United States and the whole thing just makes people on the right look completely insane.

These subsequent statement certainly seem to contradict what Rubio said in the statement that his Senate office released to the press back in June, but it’s worth keeping in mind what’s really going on here. The debate on same-sex marriage in this country is over at least as it concerns the question of whether or not the Constitution permits states to bar people of the same sex from being legally married. The Supreme Court has spoken, and although that Court was sharply divided it is simply fantasy to believe that this ruling is going to be overturned, either in the short term or the long term, or that a Constitutional Amendment overturning it is going to be ratified or even seriously considered by Congress or the states at any point in the future. To the extent that candidates like Rubio, or Cruz, Huckabee, Santorum or others, are taking this position they are doing nothing but pandering to the far-right religious conservative wing of their party.

Given the fact that Rubio is currently locked in a battle for his party’s nomination that sees him apparently headed toward a showdown with Texas Senator Ted Cruz in states such as Iowa and South Carolina where evangelical and other religious conservatives are a powerful political force, it’s not surprising to see Rubio pander like this. Just as has been the case when it comes to other issues, these people seem to live in a fantasy world where their views on issues like homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular are increasingly becoming ones that are held by a smaller and smaller minority of the public, even if it is still a substantial and unfortunately powerful part of the Republican Party. Does Rubio actually believe what he’s saying? I can’t read minds so I can’t say for sure, but given the way he initially reacted to the decision and the fact that he’s never really been a knee-jerk social conservative I suspect that he doesn’t. Unfortunately for him, the true believers probably think that as well so this latest effort at pandering to these people probably isn’t going to help very much.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Law and the Courts, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Great picture. Marco seems to be putting on a little weight. In that picture he looks, appropriately, like a young Jerry Falwell.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    I continue to believe that Rubio will be the nominee.

    He’s got that Nixon-like ability to say whatever it takes to appease doubters. Plus, base Republicans have no where else to go – as long as Rubio keeps them interested enough to turnout and vote for him, he’s got a great chance to win the nomination. A Rubio-Cruz Ticket would definitely motivate the GOP base.

  3. Mu says:

    Rubio-Cruz, but who’s the master, and who’s the apprentice?

  4. Davebo says:


    How exactly does Rubio win the nomination? He’s in 4th place in Iowa and not trending well. Things look better for him in NH but he’s still got less than half the support Trump does.

    At some point on must consider the possibility that the polls are getting it right as they have in the past.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    It just happens to be complete and utter nonsense.

    C’mon…everything the Republican candidates say is complete and utter nonsense. From economics to the environment to foreign policy. Complete and utter.
    But ignoring that…if he believes what he says then Robert Dear was justified in killing those people…because, according to christians, some alleged supernatural being…for whom there is zero proof….has deemed abortion a sin. And Rubio says that unverifiable supernatural being’s law is the final word.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Speaking of complete and utter nonsense…this has no chance of advancing anywhere.
    But at least someone somewhere still cares about justice.

  7. Scott says:

    an attitude like the one Rubio is quoted as making here is dangerous because of the manner in which it seeks to subtly reinforce what seems to be a general belief on the right that Court rulings that they disagree with can simply be ignored as illegitimate.

    Along with tirades about activist, unelected judges, rhetoric like this is undermining and delegitimizing the entire third branch of government. I would like to think that our Supreme Court justices see the danger on the horizon and work to smack this thinking down.

    On the other hand, our activist, unelected justices erroneously created an individual right to bear arms. See? It works both ways but still sows chaos.

  8. CSK says:


    The GOP base hates Rubio worse than they hate Obama.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @CSK, Davebo:

    How exactly does Rubio win the nomination? He’s in 4th place in Iowa and not trending well. Things look better for him in NH but he’s still got less than half the support Trump does.

    4th Place in Iowa means that you’re probably a sane and bathroom-trained politician.

    I discount Iowa heavily, it’s useless, and it is, their phony little caucus system, a waste of oxygen and bandwidth. Also, over 60% of the Republican caucus is evangelical. I put zero credence in anything that comes out of Iowa.

    Am I right to disrespect Iowa? Well, Trump and Carson continue to poll well – that says it all.

  10. Bill Lefrak says:

    Rubio is an interesting guy. The worst nightmare for the dopey left. Garlic to vampires.

    An intelligent, well-spoken, telegenic conservative Hispanic from Florida no less, far and away the largest “purple” state. An American dream story. Parents that fled the horror of communism. Boot-strapped his way through life to center stage for the highest office in the land. The sort of GOP politician that really shakes out the crazy from the lunatic left. The level of projection and transference and hate truly is surreal.

    As far as Rubio giving mixed signals to the so-called religious right, that’s a sky-is-blue type of observation. When is the religious right not confused? You could confuse them with anything. ABC = 123, would confuse them. There’s nothing about which they’re not unsure, except ironically enough for their own versions of what they think the Bible says, topics about which wars for two thousand years have been fought. That AP piece doesn’t impugn Rubio. He’s being a politician. That is all. Trying to walk a fine line on a difficult, no-win issue. Dog bites man.

    Rubio probably won’t get the top slot nod, but unless Jeb gets the nomination he’d be a no brainer choice for Veep. Florida is Florida. Speaks for itself. Then again, this all could be a moot discussion. If Trump somehow were to get the nomination then the issue is not whether Hillary wins it’s by how large a margin and with what coattails. Plus Trump is far too egotistical to tap Rubio as his Veep candidate. Rubio is sharper, better looking, younger and more dynamic. Anathema to Trump.

    Rubio eventually could become Prez, regardless of the brie and bric-a-brac demographics and the ridiculous issue of same-sex marriages. Rubio’s young enough still to be a national force in politics as far out as the 2036 election cycle. Time is on his side. Although by then the U.S. will have declined to de facto third-world status, so it might not be a prize worth having.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    Rubio is an interesting guy. The worst nightmare for the dopey left. Garlic to vampires.

    Unfortunately for you, there is no dopey left.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    An intelligent, well-spoken, telegenic conservative Hispanic from Florida

    He is not a Conservative, he is a Republican. Humongous difference. And no real Cuban would ever, ever, refer to themselves as Hispanic.
    But just keep pumping out that low substance word salad.

  13. Lynn Eggers says:

    @al-Ameda: “Unfortunately for you, there is no dopey left.”

    There is, of course, though it can’t compare in either size or dopiness.

  14. humanoid.panda says:

    @Bill Lefrak: Shorter Tsar:

    “Marc Rubio is my idea of what those retarded minorities would fall far, because they are retarded.”

  15. humanoid.panda says:

    And of course, the his imperial majesty’s analysis of Rubio’s career is moronic: Rubio is not running for Senate. The other likely nominee, Ted Cruz, will not put him on the ticket (Cruz know unprincipled ambition, and will not put a second snake on the ticket..) So, if Rubio loses the nomination, he has no perch in national politics, and nothing like the experience,standing, donor list and money that allowed Romney to do nothing in particular between 2007 and 2011 and be the front runner in 2012.. He could for sure run for Florida governor in 2018, but that puts him out of national politics until at least 2024, and by that time, he is not that young, and pretty much forgotten (let alone that being Florida governor will force him to deal with climate change head-on- a sure path to becoming RINO..).

  16. LC says:

    Pandering implies that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying — what evidence is there of that?

  17. Mu says:

    @LC: All the stuff he said before running for president?

  18. Paul Hooson says:

    Too many of these GOP hopefuls want to pander to the narrow antigay, antiporn, antiabortion crowd. The religious right seem to think that they’re electing a church elder or pastor, not a president for the entire country to deal with largely secular issues such as the economy or the war on terrorism.

  19. James Pearce says:

    In a bid to stay relevant, Marco Rubio proves why he’s not.

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    That’s odd. I didn’t think Rubio was polling badly enough to go for the Full Base Pander.

  21. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    All those words to type absolutely nothing.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    Tsar? Hadn’t thought of that. Hmmmm

  23. Andre Kenji says:

    As a Brazilian, I kinda like Rubio´s style. In some sense, he´s really sounds like a Hispanic. A White Hispanic from Miami, but with a style that will sound genuine for people all over Latin America. He makes jokes about everything, including lots of self deprecating jokes, he praises his Mother and his family, he speaks perfect Spanish.

    I don´t think that Republicans would vote for him solely because of that. But he can strike a chord with Latinos.

    On the other hand, he is always pandering to someone. Now he is pandering to the Republican base, but he will find someone to pander if he gets the Republican Nomination. And you can´t respect a politician that panders in the scale that Rubio does.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    …causing confusion about where Rubio actually stands…

    That’s just it–he isn’t standing at all, rather, he’s crawling to wherever he thinks he can scrounge up votes…

  25. Pch101 says:

    Rubio has every reason to pander, and no reason not to. Pandering may win him some support and will come at no cost.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help. Rubio’s views on immigration have already been established and will keep him from winning the xenophobe vote.

  26. Andre Kenji says:

    Many failed politicians from both parties pandered a lot. You´ll always sound that you have no character when you do that. No wonder that the “flip-flopper” stigma is so powerful in negative advertisement

  27. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Hal_10000: I think he’s trying to do a double-reverse axel in an attempt to distract the Trumpenproletariat from all those plans for amnesty he made about those nasty furriners. More banjo needed, obviously!

  28. anjin-san says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    An American dream story

    Right. A scofflaw who has never been able to mange his personal finances successfully.

  29. anjin-san says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    An American dream story

    Oh, and a billionaires bitch. Some dream.

  30. DrDaveT says:


    Unfortunately for you, there is no dopey left.

    Now, that’s not quite true and you know it. There certainly is a dopey left — the biodynamic farming, homeopathic medicine, crystal aura meditating hippy flower power residue of the Summer of Love and the New Age.

    They have zero political clout or relevance, of course, but they do exist. They aren’t the base. Or even the cornices.

  31. Slugger says:

    Additionally Mr. Cruz believes in a strong America and being tough with Putin. He supports Israel unconditionally. Tax cuts improve the economy for everyone. Abortion should be illegal, there should be prayers in schools. The ACA must be repealed.
    He will definitely give Republican voters new options during the primaries.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    I hate to sound like the voice of doom around here, but don’t underestimate Rubio. He’s almost as smart and quick as Cruz but unlike Cruz he reads like a guy you could leave your kids with, while Cruz reads like a guy who owns a hockey mask but doesn’t play hockey.

    If the GOP had a brain in its little head it would get Bush, Kasich, Fiorina and Christie to drop out and throw their support to Rubio. Barring (the almost inevitable) Clinton drama or the (hopefully less likely) event, she’s a sure win over anyone but Rubio, Kasich, Bush and maybe Christie. And of those four potentials, Rubio is clearly the class of the field as a campaigner.

    Don’t underestimate his chances. If he somehow wins, the GOP establishment will shower him with all the money and all the PACs in the world out of sheer relief.He’d peel off some Latino votes. He’d probably take Florida which reduces our margin for error. If that jackass Webb follows through and runs as an independent he could shave 2% off the margin in Virginia, which could lose that state for us. He’s young. He’s male. Lose Florida and Virginia and we’d better damned well hold Ohio and Colorado. We would need to start worrying about New Hampshire.

    Just sayin’. The kid’s not holding a bad hand, considering.

  33. mike shupp says:

    @michael reynolds:

    How’s Trump-Rubio grab you? And maybe a campaign promise that Fiorina will get the Health and Human Services cabinet job, with all sorts of powers to “streamline and modernize” the department “for the needs of today.”

  34. Andre Kenji says:

    Yup. Very few White Liberals noted, but Marco Rubio speaks fluent Spanish. It may be the Spanish with the Miami accent that many Hispanics don´t like, but it´s fluent Spanish. Julian Castro does not speak any Spanish, and I don´t know any prominent Hispanic Democratic politician that speaks fluent Spanish to be Hillary´s running mate(Some Hispanic Congressmen does, but I don´t know if Luiz Gutierrez is running mate material).

    The prospect of a Hispanic that speaks fluent Spanish running against a White Woman would not help Democrats with the Hispanic vote.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    The religious right seem to think that they’re electing a church elder or pastor

    The religious right, in fact most voters, are voting for prom queen.

  36. JohnMcC says:

    OMG! Has anyone noticed that there are two Doug Mataconises writing at OTB? There’s the DM who wrote:

    “…(T)he fact that politics stirs up strong emotions is not reason to blame political activists who use strong political language for the actions of people who may have serious mental health issues.”

    And then we meet the DM who says here that “…an attitude like the one Rubio is making here is dangerous because of the manner in which it seeks to subtly reinforce what seems to be a general belief on the right that Court rulings they disagree with can simply be ignored as illegitimate.”

    Danger? Someone creates a ‘dangerous’ circumstance but the idea of ‘blame’ is out of line? Hummm…. There is a failure to make some important connections here.

    OK…. I gave up expectations of verbal, compositional competence on the part of Our Gracious Host some time ago and it feels like picking on a smaller kid to bring this up just in this way. Mea culpa.

    The point, I think, is the incoherence of the Republican/’Conservative’ message. Within the right wing universe there are coherent messages but they represent a movement that has been fraying like a rope left to long in the wind. That is Sen Rubio’s problem. He doesn’t claim identity with any one particular strand within the right and is trying to make a future for himself as a general, all-round, all-purpose Repub. That is a strategy for the general election but not for primaries and caucuses. He’s a neo-conservative in foreign policy but not a STRONG neo-conservative. He’s pro-life and anti-SSM but not so much as Gov Huckabee. He’s mad as hell but hasn’t found the secret sauce that Mr Trump has captured. Und so weider.

    Our Mr Reynolds feels this makes him more a threat to Dem electoral chances. That’s certainly the way it has worked in the past. But my feeling is that we are seeing a ‘black swan’. I expect very strange results from the Repubs this year. My bet is on popcorn futures and more Mr Trump.

  37. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I hate to sound like the voice of doom around here

    Oh, come on. You LOVE sounding like the voice of doom around here. 😉

    Seriously, though, I think your assessment of Rubio is accurate, and the GOP could very well end up in a three-way primary battle between him, Trump, and Cruz.

    As far as Webb’s semi-proposed independent run: as a resident of Virginia, I’m not worried about it at all. I doubt he’d pull even 2%. The Libertarians would probably get more than him.

  38. JohnMcC says:

    @Andre Kenji: My friend, you are seriously missing the mark if you imagine that speaking Spanish like a native will aid Sen Rubio in his campaign to become the Republican nominee. And I personally think that the Democrats do not require a perfect Spanish speaker to capture the votes of Americans who consider themselves “Hispanic American”.

  39. Andre Kenji says:

    @JohnMcC: If he manages to get the nomination, that´s going to help. He is not going to win the Hispanic Vote, but he can increase the percentage of the Hispanic Vote. He is not going to get the same share of the Hispanic vote that McCain and Romney got.

  40. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Mikey: Webb is still running? I thought he had evaporated!

  41. Mikey says:

    @Grumpy Realist: He had apparently tossed around the idea of running as an independent when his campaign as a Democrat went nowhere.

  42. Grewgills says:

    He tried to pull a Trump, but nobody cared.