Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday partially defended a new religious-freedom law in Indiana that critics say sanctions discrimination against same-sex couples.
At issue is an Indiana law, signed Thursday by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, that allows people (including businesses), when they're sued for discrimination, to argue that the allegedly discriminatory behavior was an expression of their faith. Supporters say that's a common-sense defense of the freedom to practice one's own religion, while critics say that it would give businesses legal cover for antigay discrimination.
Rubio, speaking on Fox News, appeared sympathetic to the former argument: "I think the fundamental question in some of these laws is should someone be discriminated against because of their religious views. So no one is saying here that it should be legal to deny someone service at a restaurant or a hotel because of their sexual orientation," he said.
"Should someone who provides a professional service be punished by the law because they refuse to provide that professional service to a ceremony that that they believe is in violation of their faith? I think people have a right to live out their religious faith in their own lives," Rubio said.
Spokespeople for Rubio—who is expected to announce later this month that he's running for president—were not available for further clarification of his stance on the law.
Rubio's remarks come amid a national furor over the Indiana law. LGBT-rights groups have called for a boycott, and political organizations and businesses have pulled plans to do business in Indiana.
Along with the fight between social conservatives and gay-rights advocates, the law has also produced a divide between traditional Republican constituencies. Business-oriented groups such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce are opposing the measure and similar ones that have been introduced in states nationwide, while socially conservative religious organizations are strongly in favor.
Sam Baker contributed to this article
Michael J. Mishak is a political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential campaign for National Journal. Previously, he was a national political writer for The Associated Press in Miami, where his coverage of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio won state and regional awards. He also covered Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Legislature for the Los Angeles Times and politics and labor for the Las Vegas Sun, where he contributed to a Pulitzer Prize-winning series about construction worker deaths on the Strip. A Philadelphia native, Mishak cut his political teeth reporting on his hometown's mayoral race in 2003, which played out amid a federal corruption probe and the attempted firebombing of a candidate's office.