Marco Rubio challenged on opposition to same-sex marriage

Rubio Discusses Debate Performance With Lester Holt: 'We Did Excellent'

In a fairly unusual confrontation for this campaign cycle so far, a New Hampshire voter on Monday directly challenged Sen. Marco Rubio over his opposition to same-sex marriage, asking the Republican presidential candidate why he wanted to "put [him] back in the closet."

The exchange took place at the Puritan Backroom Restaurant in Manchester, where Rubio stopped to talk to voters a day before the first-in-the-nation primary.

"So Marco, being a gay man, why do you want to put me back in the closet?" asked Timothy Kierstead, who was dining at the restaurant. Rubio came over to shake his hand, but the woman sitting next to Kierstead appeared to refuse.

Ten facts you should know about Marco Rubio:

10 facts about Marco Rubio
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Marco Rubio challenged on opposition to same-sex marriage

1. His parents, Mario and Oria, are Cuban immigrants.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

2. Attended Tarkio College for one year on a football scholarship before he later transferred to Santa Fe College. 

(REUTERS/Chris Keane)

3. When he was sworn into office in 2011, he said that he owed $100,000 of student loans which he finally paid off in 2012.

(Mary F. Calvert/MCT via Getty Images)

4. His wife of 17 years, Jeanette, is of Colombian descent and was once a Miami Dolphins cheerleader.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

5. He went viral with a sip of water. Rubio gave the official Republican reaction to the State of the Union in 2013, but the only detail most people remembered was the moment in which he became so parched that he reached for a water bottle to quench his thirst.

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6. Though he was baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, he was also baptized as Mormon later in childhood when his family lived in Las Vegas. He is now a practicing Catholic.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

7. He teaches political science at Florida International University in Miami.

(Photo by Charles Ommanney for the Washington Post via Getty)

8. He says the first concert he ever attended was a Prince show.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty)

9. His family used to call him Tony, which came from his middle name Antonio.

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10. He was speaker of the Florida House before he was a U.S. Senator.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


"I don't," Rubio replied. "You can live anywhere you want. I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman."

Kierstead wasn't satisfied, pointing out that Rubio's belief in man-woman marriage stems from his religion (Rubio is Catholic). "You separate church and state," he said. "You're not separating it due to I'm a gay man."

Rubio told him that wasn't true and that he wasn't planning on establishing an official religion. But, he added, "in America, [religion] is a big part of our heritage."

"I'm already married," Kierstead said. "Have been for a long time. And you want to say we don't matter."

Rubio, moving his son away, repeated: "No, I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman."

"But that's your belief, not half the country," said Kierstead.

Perhaps wary of saying the same thing too many times following Saturday's Republican debate, during which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie skewered Rubio for his "memorized 25-second speech," the Florida senator pivoted to a states' rights defense of traditional marriage. "I think that's what the law should be, and if you don't agree, you should have the law changed by the legislature," he said.

Again, Kierstead pushed back. "The law already has been changed," he said, referring to a June Supreme Court decision that made marriage equality the law of the land.

"I respect your view," Rubio said finally as he began to walk away.

"Typical politician," Kierstead called after him. "Walk away when you got something."

Rubio is far from the only Republican presidential candidate to oppose marriage equality. Quite the opposite, in fact - all of them do, albeit with various levels of intensity. Nevertheless, such exchanges have been few and far between in this election. That could all change, however, as the field continues to winnow and the surviving candidates move on to states with fewer social conservatives and religious voters. Rubio is often touted as the GOP's best hope of appealing to a younger, more diverse general electorate. But on social issues - like abortion and LGBT rights - he's as conservative as they come.

Related: Voter to Rubio: What's your top achievement?

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network late last year, Rubio told host David Brody he would not only appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion, but also reverse executive orders President Obama signed last year that ban discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors and the U.S. government. Both actions would likely cost him popularity points with millennials, 79 percent of whom said they favored same-sex marriage in a recent poll by the Pew Research Center.

Yet Rubio seems unconcerned his positions on social issues might cost him younger voters. During Saturday's ABC News debate, he said he didn't accept the idea that believing in traditional marriage "makes you a bigot or a hater."

"It means that you believe that this institution that's been around for millennia is an important cornerstone of society," said Rubio. "I respect people that believe differently. But I believe deeply that marriage should be between one man and one woman."

The exchange with Kierstead wasn't Rubio's only awkward moment on Monday involving LGBT issues. He also talked briefly with a 92-year-old woman in the restaurant about the marital status and sexual orientation of his former rival Sen. Lindsey Graham, who dropped out of the presidential race in December.

"He's a bachelor, right?" the woman asked.

"He is," confirmed Rubio.

"Is he gay?" she asked.

"No," Rubio said with a laugh.

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