The Republican Party is still slowly warming to the idea of gay marriage -- very slowly.
The latest evolution: Presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would attend a gay wedding of someone he was close to -- while qualifying that he wouldn't condone the union itself.
"If it's somebody in my life that I care for, of course I would,” Rubio said. “I’m not going to hurt them simply because I disagree with a choice they've made or because I disagree with a decision they've made, or whatever it may be.”
Rubio likened his attendance at a gay wedding to attending a second marriage for a Catholic person -- Rubio is Catholic -- because the church bars divorce and remarriage unless the first marriage is annulled.
The question posed by Ramos is a good one, because it gets at an increasingly opaque issue for Republicans. While a few big-name GOP elected officials have endorsed gay marriage and a growing chunk of Republican voters now favor it (around four in 10, according to most recent polls), it's still a tricky issue within the party. The social conservative movement is losing this battle, surely, but it still carries lots of weight in Republican primaries -- and especially in early presidential contests in states like Iowa and South Carolina.
Republican elected officials who haven't endorsed gay marriage have gradually moved toward more of nuanced position on the issue, saying it should be left to the states (while also emphasizing that they personally oppose it -- federalism, you see).
And Rubio's comment is in that vein. While we still have yet to see a GOP presidential candidate endorse gay marriage, small moves like this one are part of the gradual evolution. Rubio's response was full of caveats, but it's also one that could test his strength with social conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina. It's not nothing.
But it's also worth noting here that Rubio's statement might not be that bold. While we don't have good national poll numbers on how many people would attend a gay wedding, a 2011 poll in New York showed two-thirds of Republicans in that state said they would attend a gay wedding of a friend or relative. Almost as many Republicans said they would as Democrats.
That's only New York, yes, but the poll was conducted in 2011, before gay marriage really swept the nation. Things have moved significantly toward gay marriage over the last four years.
So Rubio's position does move the ball a not-insignificant amount, but perhaps not as much as at first glance.