Leading Republican 2016 presidential candidate, Senator Marco Rubio, re-iterated his opposition to marriage equality on Thursday. However, his comments indicate a preference for individual states to decide the matter for themselves, phrased in such a way that left him open to changing his mind in the future.
“Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in the traditional way does not make me a bigot,” he stated, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Reaction to the remarks have focused on Rubio’s defense of his opposition to equal marriage. This is despite the vague and politically astute nature of his words.
Notably, it has been less than a year since President Obama publicly endorsed marriage equality. Up until 2012 and during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama spoke in favor of traditional marriage, also calling for states to have the right to make their own decisions.
An increasing number of Republicans have recently thrown their support behind same-sex marriage legislation, saying that to oppose it is not a voter-friendly position. Defeat in the 2012 presidential election brought with it the stark reality that backing conservative policies at large did not resonate with the electorate.
Like Obama previously, moving to the middle ground on socially divisive issues often represents a stepping stone to unambiguous support, this time regarding equal marriage and LGBT rights in general.