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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio talks tough on Russia, seeks nuance on gay rights issue



Sen. Marco Rubio was on Meet the Press to discuss the situation in Ukraine and did not disagree much, despite rheotoric from some Republicans, with possible action toward Russia that Secretary of State John Kerry outlined on the program.

"I'm encouraged by much of what I heard Secretary Kerry just say a moment ago" Rubio said. "But I do think in hindsight as we look forward to our future relationship with Russia, it's important to learn from the errors of the last few years where I think we have not accurately, or through this administration, assessed clearly what it is Russia's goals are under Vladimir Putin."

He called the Russian government "liars" but when host David Gregory asked if Russia was an enemy of the U.S., Rubio did not answer directly. "I think they're increasingly behaving like an enemy of international peace and international norms. If you look after the end of World War II and certainly through the cold war era, the spread of democracy and freedom and established norms for nations to interact with one another so that we would never have another world war. Russia doesn't, under this president, Putin, does not seem interested in any of that. So they are an enemy of that. And they are, certainly as it regards to that, an enemy of the United State."

Discussion also turned to the Arizona "religious freedom" bill Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed. Gregory asked about "the general concern that some conservatives in the party have that as gay rights advanced specifically, that sometimes religious freedom in this country is being trampled on. Is this a key issue for Republicans you think in this election year?"

Rubio: "On the one hand, I think Americans, myself included, the vast majority of conservatives as well, are against discrimination. A notion that someone, because they are gay, would be denied service at a restaurant or so forth is something a lot of Americans don't support, conservatives don't support.

"The other side of the equation is, imagine how if you are a Southern Baptist or a Catholic or Evangelical photographer, who does not believe because of your faith in gay marriage, and because of that, you don't want to provide photographic services for a gay marriage. Should you be sanctioned by the state for refusing to do so?

"I think that's what they endeavor to deal with in Arizona. I never read the law. That said, we've been pretty busy this week on a number of fronts. The governor maybe felt that that law extended beyond that. But that is also a legitimate concern. And it's one we're going to have to balance here as this issue continues to unfold across the states here in America."

The Democratic National Committee issued an email saying "True to form, Rubio once again tried to placate both sides on the issue." It pointed out that Rubio is a sponsor of Sen. Mike Lee's bill that sought, in spirit, the same protections at the Arizona bill. "It’s clear where Senator Rubio stands - and it’s not on the side of fairness and equality for all Americans."

[Last modified: Sunday, March 2, 2014 9:17pm]


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