Not only have I never heard this specific question put to a top Republican, I’m not even sure what the “conservative answer” should be. Rubio opposes legalizing gay marriage and supports the right of Christian business owners to refuse service for a gay wedding (although not to gay customers generally), positions informed by his religious belief that marriage is a sacred commitment between men and women. If you believe that, though, then why agree to participate in a gay wedding ceremony yourself by attending? Rubio’s answer, as always, is savvy, and effective in no small part because of its simplicity: “How you treat a person that you care for and love is different from what your opinion is or what your faith teaches marriage should be.” And he has an example at the ready to back it up, noting that Catholics routinely attend weddings for friends who are marrying for the second time despite the Church’s prohibition on divorce. It’s a nice example of his political talent and why I think he’s the safest pick in the GOP field. Even a curveball question like this, designed to trap him between social conservatives on the right and the rest of the pro-SSM electorate to his left, is deftly handled despite the fact that he almost certainly didn’t prepare for it. And politically it’s the correct answer, of course. He’s already banked some social-con cred by lining up with them on SSM policy; now, to preserve his status as one of the most “electable” candidates in the field, he needs to make it harder for Democrats to demagogue him as anti-gay in the general election. Voila.
But back to my original question. Is this the correct “conservative answer”? What would the social-con consensus be on whether to attend a gay wedding? I honestly have no idea. In fact, neither do some social cons:
On today’s “700 Club,” Pat Robertson took a question from a viewer who sought his advice on whether she and her husband should attend their gay child’s upcoming wedding, which Robertson predictably urged them not to do.
The viewer said that while one parent was adamant about not attending “because it’s against the Lord’s plan,” the other felt that they should attend in order to show support and love for their child. In the past, Roberson has been very clear that Christians should not attend gay weddings and he repeated that advice today.
“You don’t agree with it. You’ve got to stand there and be a witness to it,” Robertson said. “By your attendance at the ceremony, you are agreeing with it … I just wouldn’t go. I would tell your child, ‘I love you but I cannot condone this. We will always love you but I don’t condone this activity.'”
There’s the issue in a nutshell. Most Republican candidates will agree with Rubio on this, I suspect, especially the “electable” ones like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, but I wonder if he’ll be hit from the right on it in the primaries by Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Huckabee’s used rhetoric similar to Rubio’s to defend his friendship with gays (“People can be my friends who have lifestyles that are not necessarily my lifestyles. I don’t shut people out of my circle or out of my life because they have a different point of view.”) but maintaining a friendship and participating in a ritual that offends your faith are two different things. That’s the whole point of the religious-liberty argument against forcing businesses to cater gay weddings.
By the way, the guy putting this question to Rubio is Jorge Ramos, star anchor at Univision, a network Rubio has correctly identified in the past as being in the tank for ObamaCare (and immigration reform too, of course). This interview is for Fusion, a subsidiary of Univision, but the fact that Rubio was willing to grant it shows he intends to make a strong play for Latino voters by engaging them through their favorite media outlets. Also savvy, needless to say.