WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) used a speech last week to lay out the historical and economic arguments for his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, while making the case that traditional American values are disappearing.
In his address at the Catholic University in Washington, titled “Strong Values for a Strong America,” the potential 2016 presidential candidate talked about the erosion of certain values – such as education, hard work, strong marriages, and empowered parents – that boost prosperity in the country and lead to a “success sequence” for individuals.
“In America, if you get an education, find a good job, and wait until marriage to have children, your chances of achieving economic security and professional fulfillment are incredibly high,” Rubio said. “In fact, if everyone in America lived lives that went in this order, in the order I’ve just outlined, some estimates are that the poverty rate would be cut by an estimated 70 percent.”
Unfortunately, Rubio added, this sequence is becoming more difficult to accomplish for many Americans due to a lack of education, a declining marriage rate, a rising number of children raised in single-parent homes, and high unemployment.
“The ultimate responsibility for social well-being rests with us as a people – what we do as parents, neighbors, members of a church,” Rubio said. “No one is born with values, they have to be taught to us, reinforced. Strong families are the most effective teachers of these values.”
He also framed his message around economics, citing statistics about the challenges faced by children living in poor, uneducated single-parent homes.
“Over 20 percent of children raised without both parents live in poverty long-term, compared with just 2 percent of those raised in intact families. And only around 40 percent of children growing up in poor single parent homes will ever make it to the middle class or beyond,” he said.
Addressing the issue of same-sex marriage, Rubio lamented the backlash against companies like Mozilla and Chick-fil-A when their executives express their views on same-sex marriage.
He blamed supporters of gay marriage for the “growing intolerance” against those who support traditional marriage.
“I promise you even before this speech is over I’ll be attacked as a hater or a bigot or someone who is anti-gay. This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy,” he said. “Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage.”
Rubio reminded the audience that President Obama did not declare his support for same-sex marriage until the months leading to his re-election.
“If support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election,” he said.
Rubio said he supports traditional marriage because “the union of one man and one woman is a special relationship that has proven to be of great benefit to our society, our nation and our people” and not because he seeks “to discriminate against people who love someone of the same sex.”
Nearly 60 percent of people polled by Gallup support same-sex marriage – a record high, but only 30 percent among Republicans. This has resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
Rubio has consistently opposed gay marriage throughout his political career, but he has voiced his support for the rights of states to regulate marriage. He acknowledged that American history was “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians” and that many gay couples “feel humiliated by the law’s failure to recognize their relationship as marriage.”
He conceded that the issue poses “a legitimate questions for lawmakers and for society,” but said there is another side to this debate.
“Thousands of years of human history have shown that the ideal setting for children to grow up is with a mother and a father committed to one another, living together, and sharing the responsibility of raising their children,” he said. “And since traditional marriage has such an extraordinary record of success at raising children into strong and successful adults, states in our country have long elevated this institution and set it apart in our laws.”
The Florida senator said that the right to define and regulate marriage is a “two-way street,” and Americans who oppose same-sex marriage have the same right to lobby their state legislatures to change state laws.
“Americans, like myself, who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage also have a right to work to keep the traditional definition of marriage in our laws without seeing that overturned by a judge,” Rubio said.
On the divisive issue of abortion, Rubio cited the “inalienable right” to live as backing for his belief in life at conception, which is not “a statement of faith” but a matter of “medical science.”
He said abortion is a difficult issue because it involves two competing rights – women’s rights to make choices about their bodies and the rights of the unborn to live.
“In weighing these two options, I know where I stand: An unborn child should be welcomed into life and protected in law,” he said. “It seems to me a decent, humane society will take tangible steps to help women with unwanted pregnancies even as that society defends an unborn child’s right to live.”