Republican presidential contender and super thirsty guy Marco Rubio is worried that marriage equality is the first slippery step onto a very slippery slope toward labeling the Bible hate speech. Or something.
“If you think about it, we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” Rubio, who is Catholic, said Tuesday during an interview with the CBN News. “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.”
“So what’s the next step after that?” he continued. “After they are 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. And there’s a real and present danger.”
It’s hard to imagine that even Rubio believes what he’s saying here, but who knows. Massachusetts has been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples since 2004, and, last I checked, the state hasn’t moved to raze its Catholic churches or strip Boston College of its charter. Ditto for seriously every other state that has legalized equal marriage.
And while Indiana “fixed” its beefed up version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it is still completely legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the state. It is, in fact, legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in most states.
Rubio's "real and present danger" is an absurd claim, but it's a line like that plays well with audiences like the people watching him on a conservative Christian network. But beyond the tired slippery slope argument, Rubio’s framing about his opposition to equal marriage not being hateful or homophobic is worth looking at, too. Particularly because it’s an increasingly popular refrain among conservative holdouts on the issue.
Mike Huckabee, newly declared in the GOP primary, likes to beat the same drum. In 2014 at the Iowa Faith and Freedom convention, Huckabee invoked the same defense while explaining while he wanted to continue to deny gay and lesbian couples equal protection under the law.
“I’m not against anybody. I’m really not. I’m not a hater. I’m not homophobic. I honestly don’t care what people do personally in their individual lives," he said at the time. “When people say, ‘Why don’t you just kind of get on the right side of history?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to understand, this for me is not about the right side or the wrong side of history, this is the right side of the Bible, and unless God rewrites it, edits it, sends it down with his signature on it, it’s not my book to change.”
The man’s got a point! Never once in human history has the legal or cultural definition of marriage ever once changed, so why start now? (Just kidding. Men in the Bible have multiple wives. They have children with other women when their wives can't conceive. There are forced marriages and rape. Not to mention the fact that our cultural and political understanding of marriage as an institution has never been stable.)
But if Rubio and Huckabee are truly concerned about being labeled haters, but also very much want to stick to their interpretation of traditional marriage, they should probably change tactics and -- rather than oppose equal marriage -- start campaigning to ban civil marriage for everyone.
Civil marriage is a contract. As it stands, gay and lesbian couples who live in states without equal marriage can still marry in churches that recognize their relationships. (Presbyterian and Lutheran churches can perform ceremonies for same-sex couples, for example.) Churches also have discretion when it comes to straight couples: Catholics who get divorced can’t remarry in some churches unless they get an annulment.
But those same Catholics can get married many times over at their local court house. Because there’s a difference between a religious ceremony and a civil ceremony. One means something in the eyes of your faith, the other means something in the eyes of the state. But when it comes to tax breaks or getting a green card for your partner, only the latter matters.
So if guys like Rubio and Huckabee want to hold fast to their version of marriage, they should campaign to end a system that confers more than 1,000 rights and legal entitlements contingent exclusively on a contract you sign because you promise to have sex with the same person until you die. Unless, of course, they really like a system that actively excludes consenting adults from entering into legally binding contracts. Then, you know, they're just haters and homophobes.