WASHINGTON — Americans who oppose same-sex marriage often face “intolerance” from those who support it, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Wednesday in a speech about values that appeared aimed at wooing social conservatives.
In remarks he said were likely to get him criticized as a bigot, the Florida Republican told an audience at Catholic University that a strong America is impossible without Americans who hold strong values. Seeming to seek a debate over those values, he criticized liberals who defend abortion rights for women but not protections for “the unborn.”
While Rubio has consistently held conservative positions on gay marriage and abortion, his current emphasis appears to be an appeal to social conservatives who have yet to settle on a favored presidential candidate for 2016.
“Even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as someone who is a hater or a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s remarks on social issues come as he is trying to recover from his failed push for an immigration overhaul, now seen as a political misstep.
His priority seems to be winning back the support of the activists who have clout in picking the GOP presidential nominee, and he has been working to make himself more acceptable to factions within the fractured GOP.
While his stance on social issues could be an advantage in early nominating, Rubio is also wrapping himself in rhetoric that could haunt him if he makes it to the general election in November 2016.
“There is a growing intolerance on this issue,” Rubio said of those who back same-sex marriages. He then urged his opponents to show civility: “Tolerance is also a two-way street.”
He also said communities should work to fight abortion and to promote children born to married couples. He said he understands single-parent households – including in his extended family – but said abortion is not the answer.
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