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PolitiFact Florida on State's Rights on Marriage; Marco Rubio's Comments on Muslims

NBC News
Sen. Marco Rubio sits down with NBC's Chuck Todd in an interview that aired Dec. 13 on Meet the Press

Does the fact that people getting married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator mean that states have the power to regulate marriage? And did Sen. Marco Rubio really compare Muslims to Nazis (not really...) To get the answers to those questions, we ask Katie Sanders of PolitiFact Florida.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has always opposed same-sex marriage, and when he was asked if he'd work to overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling, he said he doesn't think the Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate marriage.

He told NBC's Meet the Press: "If you want to change the definition of marriage, then you need to go to state legislatures and get them to change it, because states have always defined marriage. And that's why some people get married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator. And in Florida, you have to wait a couple days when you get your permit. Every state has different marriage laws."

We ask PolitiFact Florida's Katie Sanders if he's right. Does the right to regulate marriage rest at the state and local level?

Here's PolitiFact's ruling:

Rubio has a point that marriage laws are largely the states' responsibility, such as the permit and license laws he noted. But states cannot make laws that violate the Constitution, and the June ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was not the first time the Supreme Court limited state regulation and, essentially, defined marriage.
The most pertinent example is the 1967 Supreme Court decision in Loving vs. Virginia, which invalidated any bans on interracial marriages. The court decided unanimously that these bans violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. "It is true that states have generally defined who can get married and the process by which it happens, unless those laws contradict the Constitution, as you rightly point out in the Loving case," said Jason Pierceson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield and author of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court. "States have primary control in many policy areas, but those powers are limited by the 14th Amendment." Jane Schacter, a Stanford University constitutional law professor, showed us a few more examples of the Supreme Court overturning state marriage laws on 14th Amendment grounds. In 1971’s Boddie vs. Connecticut, the court found a Connecticut law requiring poor people to pay a fee to get divorced violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. Seven years later, in Zablocki vs. Redhail, the court overturned a Wisconsin statute barring fathers who were behind on child support payments from getting married. And in Turner vs. Safley, the court in 1987 said a Missouri statute barring inmates from getting married was unconstitutional. "There is no unrestricted prerogative of a state to do whatever it wishes with respect to marriage, Constitution be damned," Schacter said. "But it is always case by case." Pierceson added that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which passed Congress with bipartisan support, is another example of the federal government making a law affecting the definition of marriage. The law, which the court struck down in 2013, defined marriage as one man and one woman for federal purposes, such as tax provisions that take marital status into account. Marriage isn’t the only place where states make their own laws and then the Supreme Court can overturn them if they’re unconstitutional, said Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. For example, states run their own elementary education systems, but they cannot segregate their public schools because that would be unconstitutional. "You can argue about whether (the same-sex marriage decision) has a firm basis in the Constitution," Roosevelt said. "But it's not out of the ordinary just because it's a constitutional limit on state marriage laws." Rubio’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Our ruling Rubio said, "States have always defined marriage." Rubio has a point that states are generally in charge of administering marriage within their boundaries. However, his statement implies that state marriage regulations were untouched by the federal government up until the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and that is not the case. There are numerous 20th century examples of the Supreme Court overturning state marriage regulations that it found to be unconstitutional, including the 1967 decision to invalidate laws banning interracial marriages. We rate Rubio’s claim Half True.

In keeping with our Marco Rubio theme, Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida says it's not only Donald Trump who wants to keep Muslims from entering the country.

She told CNN:  "Marco Rubio, after the Paris attacks, said not only that we should be considering internment, he actually suggested that maybe we should close down cafes and diners where Muslims gather, and in fact, compared them to the Nazi party."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:


Rubio has not called for internment of Muslims Even the DNC admitted the "internment" part of her attack on Rubio is completely inaccurate. Rubio has not proposed anything similar to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II for Muslims. DNC spokesman Sean Bartlett claimed Wasserman Schultz had comments by Trump in mind during this part of her interview. Rubio on Muslim cafes and diners According to Wasserman Schultz, Rubio "actually suggested that maybe we should close down cafes and diners where Muslims gather." Rubio did talk about closing down cafes in an interview Nov. 19 with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, but Wasserman Schultz fails to mention a key qualifier. Rubio said any place should be closed down if it is a site "where radicals are being inspired." In the interview, Kelly asked Rubio, "Donald Trump is suggesting we may need to close mosques that have problems with radicals at the top. What do you say?" Rubio replied, "Well, I think we need to target radicalism. A lot of it is actually happening online, not simply in mosques. The vast majority of the mosques in America is not..." Kelly asked: "But the mosques piece is a controversial piece, so where do you stand on that?" Rubio then said: "Well, I think it's not about closing down mosques. It's about closing down any place. Whether it's a cafe, a diner, an internet spot. Any place where radicals are being inspired. "And that we have — the biggest problem we have is our inability to find out what these places are because we've crippled our intelligence programs, both through an authorized disclosure by a traitor, in other words, [Edward] Snowden, or by some of the things that this president has put in place for the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities. "So, whatever facilities being used, it's not just a mosques. Any facility that's being used to radicalize and inspire attacks against the United States should be a place that we look at." Closing down any place if it is being used to "inspire attacks" is different from flat-out calling for shuttering cafes and diners simply because Muslims gather there. Nazi comparison The last part of Wasserman Schultz’s attack is that Rubio compared Muslims "to the Nazi party." This is also a case of Wasserman Schultz twisting Rubio’s words out of context. Bartlett of the DNC pointed to Rubio’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week Nov. 15, the night after a Democratic debate. Stephanopoulos asked Rubio: "You saw Secretary Clinton there did not want to use the words ‘radical Islam.’ What is your response?" Rubio replied, "I don’t understand it. That would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren’t violent themselves. We are at war with radical Islam, with an interpretation of Islam by a significant number of people around the world, who they believe now justifies them in killing those who don't agree with their ideology. This is a clash of civilizations. ... Of course all Muslims are not members of violent jihadist groups." Rubio was trying to use an analogy to suggest it would have been ridiculous to avoid using the word "Nazis" during World War II out of fear of offending some Germans who were members of the Nazi party. Our ruling According to Wasserman Schultz, Rubio has said "we should be considering internment" of Muslims, and "maybe we should close down cafes and diners where Muslims gather and in fact compared them to the Nazi party." Rubio has not called for internment of Muslims. This is flatly wrong. Her paraphrases about Rubio wanting to close Muslim cafes and diners and comparing Muslims to Nazis are at least missing context. But to suggest he wants internment of Muslims — to take away their freedom and rights in the United States and separate them from the rest of society — is a grave accusation that leaves listeners with a grossly misleading impression of Rubio’s statements. We rate her claim Pants on Fire.


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.