U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott voted against advancing federal marriage equality law

By: - November 16, 2022 6:42 pm

The U.S. Senate approved legislation Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, that would enshrine protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. The 61-36 bipartisan vote sends the bill back to the U.S. House.( Canva image). Courtesy of the Louisiana Illuminator.

Florida’s two Republican U.S. senators – Marco Rubio and Rick Scott — both voted Wednesday against a procedural measure that would federally recognize and protect same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. The measure advanced on a 62-37 vote, and it will go back before the Senate for a final vote as soon as this week.

Neither of the Florida senators spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday.

But after the vote, Scott issued this statement:

 “I proudly support the gay community in Florida and across the nation and will aggressively fight any attempt to take away the ability for same-sex couples to marry and live their dreams in our great country. Unfortunately, the bill under consideration by the U.S. Senate does not adequately protect the religious liberties of all Americans, as guaranteed by the Constitution. Thankfully, Senator Mike Lee (of Utah) has an amendment to both codify protections for same-sex marriage into law AND maintain ironclad protections for religious liberty. I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in supporting Senator Lee’s amendment and working together to get this done the right way and with overwhelming support.”

However, an amendment about religious liberty language had already been included in the measure, in part to attract more Republican support. That new language would ensure no changes to tax-exempt status since “a church, university, or other nonprofit’s eligibility for tax-exempt status is unrelated to marriage, so its status would not be affected by this legislation,” according to a summary.

Scott over the years has been reticent to comment on same-sex marriage.

When running for reelection for governor in the summer of 2014, the Miami Herald reported Scott as saying that “Nobody wants discrimination in our state” when asked about same-sex marriage, adding that he believed in “traditional marriage.”

Scott referenced the constitutional amendment Floridians approved in 2008 banning same sex marriage in Florida. “People have different views about it in our state,” the Herald quotes Scott. “But in 2008, the voters decided that this state would be a traditional marriage state. It’s going through the court system. But what’s important to me is I don’t want anybody discriminated against.”

In 2016, when asked on Fox News what he made of the Republican Party’s platform opposing same-sex marriage, Scott simply called it “the law of the land,” adding that the U.S. Supreme Court had already made the decision to legalize such unions.

In 2019, he tweeted out a National Review article that showed then Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke calling for the religious institutions to lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage. In his tweet, Scott said, “@BetoORourke admitted what we’ve known for a long tme – @TheDemocrats don’t care about religious liberty. This isn’t about gay marriage. This is about a complete disregard for the freedoms guaranteed in our constitution.”

Senator Rubio has not immediately commented on today’s vote. However, the Phoenix did go back and look at previous comments he has made on same-sex marriage.

Before the House of Representatives voted on the measure back in July, he dismissed the legislation as a “stupid waste of time,” according to CNN.

“I’m not voting for that bill, what do you mean I won’t say how I’ll vote?” Insider quoted Rubio saying earlier this summer, adding that it was a “waste of our time on a non-issue.”

In July he told Fox-13 in Tampa that concerns about same-sex marriage were a “fake problem.”

“This is just not real,” Rubio said. “It’s a fake problem. I don’t vote for fake problems. I don’t vote to solve problems that don’t exist. It’s important for the priorities of the people in Washington to be the priorities of the people that sent us there.”

Rubio over the years has maintained that same sex marriage is an issue that should be decided by the states.

“I’ve not, for example, ever supported a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage, because I believe states define marriage in their laws,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper in 2015. He also said that “I think that there’s still significant amount of Americans that believe that the definition of marriage should be that of one man and one woman as it has been for thousands of years.”

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and would also protect interracial marriage by requiring the federal government to recognize valid marriage regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.”

The measure was introduced by House Democrats this summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision which ended a federal right for a woman to have an abortion in America. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should reconsider protecting same-sex relationships, marriage equality and access to contraceptives.

That prompted Democrats in the House to write the measure, which was passed in a bipartisan vote 267 to 157, with 47 Republicans voting in support.

However, in order to become federal law, the measure has to pass the U.S. Senate with a filibuster proof 60 votes, meaning 10 Senate Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats.

Should the measure pass the Senate in a vote before the end of the year, it would need to go back before the House in its revised form before going back to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.