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  1. Florida Politics

Romano: Marco Rubio panders in saying Christianity 'in danger' for gay marriage stance

“Today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater,” Sen. Marco Rubio said this week on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“Today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater,” Sen. Marco Rubio said this week on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Published May 28, 2015

Let's make this point clear from the beginning:

Marco Rubio was pandering.

When he talked earlier this week about Christianity being under attack, he was using shameless, over-the-top rhetoric in a not-too-subtle appeal to evangelical voters.

So let's put aside the motivation of the senator's words and focus on something far more interesting:

Their veracity.

In the name of tolerance, have supporters of same-sex marriages become intolerant of Christian beliefs? And do Christians have a right to feel as if they are under siege?

Here's what I would say:

Individually yes, but collectively no.

In other words, I am sure there are people who harbor no ill will in their hearts, and do not campaign against gay rights, but disapprove of homosexuality based on their religious convictions. So, yes, it's probably harsh to call them bigots for that reason.

But they must also understand that too many others are devoting time and money to deny gay people basic rights under the guise of Christian principles. And if Christianity is being used as a weapon, then verbal retaliation should come as no surprise.

"You might not like being called a bigot. You might not think that's fair," said Nadine Smith, the CEO of Equality Florida. "But how that makes you feel in no way compares to what you are actively doing to hurt me and my family.

"There's a difference between having an opinion about gay couples and actually trying to make your opinion part of the law. That's when we have a problem."

Knowing that same-sex marriages are quickly gaining traction around the country, Rubio will sometimes couch his remarks as being pro-traditional marriage instead of anti-gay marriage. His appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network this week was clearly intended to appeal to a different audience.

"We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech," he said. "Because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.

"After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech."

Rubio's comments were not exactly groundbreaking. It's become common for those opposed to same-sex marriages to claim they are the ones being persecuted for their beliefs.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, said last month that gay marriages would lead to the "criminalization of Christianity."

Look, I don't begrudge Huckabee his opinion. And I don't begrudge Rubio his political machinations. But that still doesn't mean they get to twist the facts.

And the reality is that the worst thing Christians have dealt with on this issue is some name-calling. Meanwhile, gay couples have been unable to file joint tax returns. They have been unable to visit spouses in the hospital ICU. They've been forced to explain to their children that they're not permitted to marry.

Mostly, they've been treated like second-class citizens.

So to claim that Christianity itself is in "real and present danger," as Rubio said, is either remarkably disingenuous or willfully ignorant.

"What Marco Rubio is doing is pandering to a particular audience in grotesque fashion," Smith said. "This line of attack is intended to do exactly what it is doing — and that's obscuring the actual harm that is being done to gay couples."

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