Washington (CNN) – Citing a “growing intolerance” against opponents of same-sex marriage, Sen. Marco Rubio argued that those who advocate same-sex marriage need to be more respectful of those who oppose it.
“Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay. It's pro-traditional marriage,” the Florida Republican said in a speech at Catholic University. “And if support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election.”
Rubio was referring to the President's decision in May 2012 to announce he backed same-sex marriage. He previously opposed the right for gay couples to legally wed, supporting civil unions instead.
Rubio acknowledged that the country's history is “marked by discrimination against gays and lesbian couples” and that many consider bans against same-sex marriage as an example of continued discrimination.
“I respect their argument, and I would concede that they pose a legitimate question for lawmakers and for society,” Rubio said.
But the potential 2016 presidential contender argued that those who oppose it should have just as much say in the debate. Civil dialogue will require respect from both sides, he argued, “because tolerance is a two way street.”
The senator, who was giving a speech on family values and morality, indicated he was clearly aware that people don’t accept his views.
“I promise you, before this speech is even over, I’ll be attacked as a hater, a bigot, someone who’s anti-gay,” he said. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy.”