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Twelve Republican senators crossed the aisle to support marriage equality with the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

They hailed everywhere from independent-minded states like Maine and Alaska, to conservative strongholds like Wyoming, West Virginia and Utah. 

But in Florida both Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott opposed the Respect for Marriage Act that President Joe Biden signed into law Dec. 13.

It’s not a surprise.

Neither had indicated they would support the legislation. In July, Rubio, as he was walking into an elevator, told CNN that voting on the bill was a “stupid waste of time” in front of Tammy Baldwin, who is the first openly LGBT United States senator.

Scott had taken a less aggressive stance telling CNN in July he would “wait and see.”

Both voted no when the senate voted Nov. 29. The Respect for Marriage Act codified same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law. The law also forces states to recognize marriages from other states, but doesn’t compel a state to issue a marriage certificate to anyone, including same-sex couples.

“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,” Scott said in a statement. “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.”

Meanwhile Rubio offered up an amendment to the legislation that was rejected.
“This bill does not protect religious liberty. Nuns running orphanages will find themselves in court if it becomes law. That’s outrageous. No faith-based organization will be immune from the insanity. Christian. Jewish. Muslim. Everyone,” Rubio said in a statement. “The Senate had a chance to fix this obvious problem, but it failed. Now faith-based organizations will suffer the consequences.”

But the Mormon Church, once a major opponent of same-sex marriage, supported the bill.

“We are grateful for the continuing efforts of those who work to ensure the Respect for Marriage Act includes appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” the Church’s statement reads. “We believe this approach is the way forward. As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.” 

Rubio’s statement even notes the bill does in fact protect nonprofits whose “principal purpose” is the “study, practice, or advancement of religion.”

Rubio had this to say to one SFGN reader when he emailed the senator’s office.

“There is no more fundamental and sacred bond than a marriage between a man and woman.  I have long advocated that marriage is the essential foundation for raising children and serves as the core of a healthy and productive society,” Rubio said in the letter. “Children are best positioned to thrive when they are raised in a household with a married mother and father, and the stability provided by this environment is the most conducive structure to ensure local communities can flourish. I have championed pro-family efforts during my time in the Senate to ensure that families can provide for their children, and that parents raising children are prioritized in any legislation that comes before the Senate.”

SFGN attempted to authenticate the email, but Rubio’s office did not respond to an email inquiry. 

“In addition to the substantive policy concerns, this legislative effort is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the real issues facing Americans,” Rubio continued in the letter. “Congress should be focused on alleviating real problems facing Americans today. Before this partisan stunt, no one in our country was talking about the definition of marriage.”

Some of the other conservative Republicans are facing backlash in their home states since voting for legislation including Joni Ernst of Iowa and Todd Young of Indiana.

A few Republican groups in Iowa are moving to censure the two-term Republican. But Ernst is standing firm and defending her vote.

"I don't agree with the censure," she told the Des Moines Register. "But I will say that I stand by my vote, and I hope that more people will actually read the bill and understand we have just improved upon religious liberty protections, not just in Iowa, but across the United States." 

Meanwhile at least one county in Indiana voted to censure Young. Other counties are staying neutral. According to WBOI Allen County Republican Chairman Steve Shine says he will not censure the senator because he says he has received “an equal number of calls and messages in favor and against Young’s vote.”


South Florida House Repubs Renege on Marriage Equality