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With Donald Trump (still…) leading among conservative voters and second choice candidate Ted Cruz‘s poll numbers climbing, Marco Rubio is the party’s current number three candidate. Which isn’t bad, but obviously Rubio needs to up his game if he’s going to capture the support of the Republican voter.

With his own history of mishaps and radical policy positions, he’s got work to do. And, no, I don’t mean hardline opposition to reproductive care or LGBT rights or his dubious ideas about science; I’m talking about dangerous things like compromising on immigration. The appearance of moderation, however undeserved, may be good news in a general election, but it is probably pretty terrifying to a base that thinks theocratic rule is cool, banning Muslims is not a bad idea, and immigrants include a large number of rapists and terrorists.

So what’s a Republican saddled with the unfortunate appearance of reasonableness to do? Simple: take a fresh swipe at the rights of a minority group.

Since Trump and Cruz already have Muslims covered, Cruz recently went after atheists, and fearmongering about immigrants has already made way for fearmongering about refugees, it’s time to resurrect a classic Republican standby: attacking the rights of LGBT people to be married.

For what it’s worth, that wasn’t an original effort; Cruz had promised to do this earlier in the year, back when marriage equality was the focal point for the ever shifting winds of conservative rage. So it may be a little derivative, but since Cruz has moved on to attacking other groups, I suppose Rubio deserves credit for taking the initiative to fill the gay-bashing void. I mean, it’s not like conservatives can start acknowledging that LGBT Americans have constitutional rights or anything.

On Meet the Press, Rubio repeatedly mentioned his opposition to the historic Obergefell ruling. At first he seemed to shy away from laying out his plan for how to take those rights away. Ultimately, though, he channeled some of that fearless conservatism and bravely laid out just how he’d strip citizens of their rights.

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Host Chuck Todd: But it’s done now. Are you going to work to overturn it?

Rubio: You can’t work to overturn it. What you–

Todd: Sure. You can do a constitutional amendment.

Rubio: As I’ve said, that would be conceding that the current Constitution is somehow wrong and needs to be fixed. I don’t think the current Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate marriage. That belongs at the state and local level. And that’s why if you want to change the definition of marriage, which is what this argument is about.

It’s not about discrimination. It is about the definition of a very specific, traditional, and age-old institution. If you want to change it, you have a right to petition your state legislature and your elected representatives to do it. What is wrong is that the Supreme Court has found this hidden constitutional right that 200 years of jurisprudence had not discovered and basically overturn the will of voters in Florida where over 60% passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

Todd: So are you accepting the idea of same sex marriage in perpetuity?

Rubio: It is the current law. I don’t believe any case law is settled law. Any future Supreme Court can change it. And ultimately, I will appoint Supreme Court justices that will interpret the Constitution as originally constructed.

Never mind that majority will is irrelevant to someone’s constitutional rights; never mind that this is not the first time that the government protected couples’ rights to be married despite discriminatory state law; never mind that the Court has already ruled on this issue. Rubio simply intends to appoint people who will rule differently next time. (If at first you don’t succeed…)

With multiple aging justices, it’s very likely that the next president will be appointing multiple replacements. In shedding the façade of moderation, Rubio reminds us how very dangerous it would be, were he the one making that choice.

(Image via Christopher Halloran /

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