In Marco Rubio’s world, discriminating against gays doesn’t make you a bigot. “Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot,” the Florida Republican senator said during a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. on Thursday. The GOP rising star argued that his party doesn’t need to turn its back on true conservative principles as members try to broaden their outreach to appeal to more Americans (aka: women, minorities and young voters.) Rubio insisted that those who are close-minded in American politics are the “people that love to preach about the certainty of science in regards to our climate, but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception.” Just to recap, back in November when asked by GQ just how old he thinks the Earth is, Rubio said, “I’m not a scientist, man.” Of course, scientists treat it as an unquestioned fact that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Many religious conservatives, on the other hand, point to the Bible’s creation tale, with many insisting the Earth was created in a matter of days by God, some 6,000 years ago. But perhaps most surprising in Rubio’s CPAC speech was what he didn’t talk about: immigration. The Cuban-American and Tea Party favorite is part of the bipartisan “gang of eight” working to reform the nation’s immigration policy. The plan hopes to provide a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Rubio has already taken some heat on the right for flirting with a path to citizenship — “Amnesty!” howl some conservatives — and perhaps he figured CPAC wasn’t the best play to tout his relatively moderate stance. Toeing the party line, Rubio also railed against tax increases, saying “there is no tax increase in the world that will solve our long-term debt problem.” He also tried to anticipate the left’s criticism about his speech. “’‘That he drank too much water,” Rubio joked, referring to his State of the Union response in which he awkwardly paused to quench his thirst. The other likely point? “That he didn’t offer up new ideas. We don’t need new ideas. The idea is called America, and it still works,” Rubio insisted.
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