Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), the newest and youngest official Republican candidate for president, has said he believes marriage should be “traditional”—between a man and a woman.
So Fusion’s Jorge Ramos asked him: If someone in his family or on his staff were gay and getting married, would he attend the wedding?
“If it’s somebody in my life that I care for, of course I would,” Rubio told Ramos in an interview on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to hurt them simply because I disagree with a choice they’ve made or because I disagree with a decision they’ve made, or whatever it may be,” he added. “Ultimately, if someone that you care for and is part of your family has decided to move in one direction or another or feels that way because of who they love, you respect that because you love them.”
Rubio spoke with Ramos about a variety of issues, including marriage equality, immigration reform, climate change, President Barack Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, and which rapper or singer he’d like to perform at his potential 2017 inauguration.
In the early throes of his campaign, Rubio has positioned himself as the candidate of “tomorrow.” He has cast himself as a young, fresh alternative to other Republicans and to likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who he referred to in his announcement speech as the candidate of “yesterday.”
But his stance on gay marriage has led to questions on whether he’s more out of touch than Clinton with young people on certain issues. According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 74 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds said they were in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. On Tuesday, CNN anchor Jake Tapper called Rubio “the candidate of yesterday” on the issue of marriage equality.
Rubio said that while he personally opposes gay marriage, he would encourage people in favor to petition their state legislatures to permit same-sex marriages. He does not think the decision should be left up to courts, he said.
“I would point out that we live in a free society,” Rubio said. “If people want to change the definition of marriage, they should petition their state legislature, and they can have that debate in the political arena. Who I don’t think should be redefining marriage is the court system.”
Rubio, who is Catholic, noted that his faith also teaches that divorce is wrong, and he drew on that as a comparison to his personal feelings on gay marriage.
“But again, as I said, I’m a member of the Catholic faith that teaches, for example, that divorce is wrong,” Rubio said. “But if someone gets divorced, I’m not going to stop loving them or having them a part of our lives.”
Climate change is another area where Rubio’s views put him at some odds with young people — 60 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds say human activity is causing the earth to warm, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
For his part, Rubio told Ramos he believes the climate is changing. But he said the main questions he has to consider as a policymaker are to what extent humans are causing the earth’s warming and to what effect policy changes being considered would be economically damaging. He said it’s necessary to do a cost-benefit analysis of proposed policy changes.
“I can tell you with certainty the impact that they would have on our economy,” he told Ramos. “They would be devastating. They would put millions of people out of work. They would hurt economic growth and prosperity. So I do believe it’s possible to have a platform that’s both pro-environment and also at the same time pro-economic growth.”
Rubio spearheaded an effort in the Senate in 2013 to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. Amid a conservative backlash, he has spent many months backing away from his own bill — only to tout his efforts on Monday as a contrast to Clinton.
Ramos asked Rubio about Obama’s executive steps to unilaterally change how the federal government deports undocumented immigrants — his 2012 order that defers deportations for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as young children, and the order last year that could shield as many as 5 million from deportation.
Rubio suggested that he would not immediately revoke the former, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But he said that he would revoke the latter early in his theoretical presidency because it hinders efforts toward real reform.
“It is adding credibility to the argument that we cannot do immigration reform because the federal government is not serious about enforcing immigration laws and preventing a future illegal immigration crisis,” Rubio said.
One thing Rubio said he would definitively do if he were elected president is cut ties with Cuba, with which the Obama administration has recently moved to restore normal relations. Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro last weekend in the first bilateral meeting between presidents of the two nations in nearly six decades.
“I would cut ties with a tyranny,” Rubio said. “This tyranny — the Castro government. Now, if Cuba begins to make moves toward democracy — allowing freedom of the press, allowing freedom of expression, allowing independent groups to organize, allowing unfettered access to the Internet, the things normal countries have — I think there would be reciprocal openings to meet them each step of the way in that regard.
“That’s not the direction the Cuban government is headed in right now. Even as I speak to you this week, they’re rounding up and arresting more people.”
Almost seven-in-10 young Cuban-Americans, however, support normalizing relations with the island nation. And across the country, 67 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds support restoring ties with Cuba, according to Pew.
So Ramos asked Rubio: Given your criticism of Clinton as the “candidate of yesterday,” aren’t you embracing policies of the past?
“No, in fact, I’m embracing policies of the future,” Rubio said. “Because I think there are things that are universal truths that apply forever. And that is human rights, respect for democracy. And these are things that the Cuban government violates on an ongoing basis.”
“When I talk about the past vs. the future,” he added, “I’m talking about economic policies that don’t realize the nature of our economy has changed.”
Watch the full interview here: