Rubio at CPAC: ‘States should have the right to define marriage …’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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During his speech at CPAC on Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio talked about respecting the other fellow’s positions. Then, he said this: “Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in the traditional way does not make me a bigot.”

It was an interesting line. At first blush, it was an example of Rubio defending traditional marriage. But as the DC Examiner’s Philip Klein noted, “Rubio[s] emphasis on states rights to define traditional marriage (rather than [Federal Marriage Amendment]) shows how far debate has shifted.”

This at least, seemed like a big deal to me. It sounded like Rubio was making a policy statement. And this is an idea that is gaining currency. Writing about Rand Paul’s marriage position recently, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote that, “[G]etting the federal government out of the marriage business, deferring to the states and allowing individuals to, as he says, enter into contracts with one another, can be the way out of the gay marriage thicket for the GOP, I would argue.”

There are, of course, problems with this. Life is complex. If one state marries a couple, can a second state not recognize the marriage?

One wonders if this is even bigger than the marriage issue. I recently heard a prominent Republican say that we should never talk about abortion at the federal level. This was a big name — one that you would know. At some point, it seems that Mitch Daniels’ controversial comments about “declaring a truce” on social issues actually won the day.

On a handful of the defining issues of our day, “federalism” is sometimes another word for cop out.

These are moral issues, and for those who see an analogy between defending the right to life and the abolitionist cause, this could be an unwelcome turn of events.

Matt K. Lewis