U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is being criticized for a comment he made to a reporter panning a bill to codify same-sex marriage into law.
Last Wednesday, CNN reporter Manu Raju was asking Republican senators where they stand on the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure same-sex couples, regardless of where they live in the United States, can marry and have their marriages, spousal rights, and parental rights recognized by the federal government.
The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a bipartisan 267-157 vote last Thursday, with 47 Republicans voting with all of the lower chamber’s Democrats to advance the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he wants to bring the bill up for debate this session, but has not scheduled an official vote yet, meaning it may not be brought up until after the August congressional recess.
According to Raju, Rubio said he wouldn’t vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, calling the bill a “stupid waste of time.”
Marco Rubio told me that he is a NO on House’s same-sex marriage bill, calling it a “stupid waste of time”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 20, 2022
Rubio’s comment has been echoed by many Republicans, who claim that Democrats are only bringing up the issue of same-sex marriage — which, according to polling, enjoys majority support among Americans — to distract from the party’s dismal record on inflation and high gas prices in an election year.
But when Rubio called the bill “stupid waste of time,” there was another senator on the elevator he was boarding who heard him: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of only two LGBTQ senators in the upper chamber, who, according to Politico, has been lobbying Republican senators to support the bill.
“You probably would have loved to be on the elevator to see the exchange after,” Baldwin told CNN the day after Raju reported on the comment, confirming she did indeed speak to Rubio about the bill.
“I said that, ‘The recent Supreme Court decision eroded a constitutional right to privacy. There’s a whole bunch of cases that have been decided based on a constitutional right to privacy that are in jeopardy,’ which he disagrees with. And anyways, I said we’ll be talking some more,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin’s references to privacy concerns refer to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn precedent in the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, ruling there is no federal right to obtain an abortion. In a concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to revisit and overturn other precedents dealing with unenumerated privacy “rights,” such as the right to use contraception, the right to engage in consensual same-sex activity, and the right to same-sex marriage.
As a result, Democrats have pushed for the Respect for Marriage Act to be passed this year to enshrine protections for same-sex marriage into law while the party still controls both chambers of Congress, ahead of what many expect to be a disastrous election cycle for the party.
Baldwin did not reveal what Rubio said in response to her comments. She also declined to say if she was offended by the remark, turning the attention to her behind-the-scenes effort to whip up at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster, which would allow the Senate to proceed with, and ultimately end, debate on the measure before granting a final up-or-down vote on the matter.=
Baldwin told Politico she’s hopeful her efforts will convince enough Republicans to vote to allow the up-or-down vote on same-sex marriage to proceed. She declined to reveal details of the talks, saying only that they’d continue.
“I am talking to a lot of folks, but folks who I think want to get to yes,” she said.
While Baldwin has not said whether Rubio is among those she’s still lobbying, many political observers believe it’s unlikely, as Rubio has spent the bulk of his political career positioning himself as a national leader from the Republican Party’s conservative wing and a potential future president — which could be jeopardized by a vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
But while Baldwin has taken a more conciliatory approach, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first LGBTQ cabinet member to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, has slammed Rubio’s comments, ridiculing the senator for attacking The Walt Disney Company.
Rubio and other Florida Republicans have denounced the media company for publicly opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits teachers from mentioning or discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grades, and restricts what they can say in secondary and high school-level classes.
“If he’s got time to fight against Disney, I don’t know why he wouldn’t have time to help safeguard marriages like mine,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on the State of the Union Sunday show. “This is really, really important to a lot of people. It’s certainly important to me.”
“Our marriage deserves to be treated equally. I don’t know why this would be hard for a senator, for a congressman,” Buttigieg, who has been married to his husband Chasten since 2018 and recently adopted twins, told Tapper.
“I don’t understand how such a majority of House Republicans voted no on our marriage as recently as Tuesday — hours after I was in a room with a lot of them talking about transportation policy, having what I thought were perfectly normal conversations with many of them on that subject, only for some of them to go around the corner and say that my marriage doesn’t deserve to continue,” Buttigieg said.
He also proposed a solution for Republicans who believe the issue is a “distraction” from other pressing election-year issues.
“If they don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, they can vote ‘yes’ and move on,” he said. “And that would be really reassuring for a lot of families around America — including mine.”
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