Washington (CNN)Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took a decidedly conservative turn on same-sex marriage in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, warning that "there's a real and present danger" that gay marriage proponents will cast the teachings of mainstream Christianity as "hate speech."
Rubio: Gay marriage proponents pose 'danger' to Christianity
"If you think about it, we are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech. Because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater," the Republican presidential candidate said.
"After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech and there's a real and present danger," Rubio warned.
Rubio has always been personally opposed to same-sex marriage and has argued the issue should be left up to the states.
But his comments to CBN Tuesday mark a notable shift in tone for a candidate who told CNN earlier this year that if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, "that would be the law of the land that we would have to follow until it's somehow reversed."
His choice to sound the alarm on a possible attack on Christianity aligns him more closely with the evangelicals he'll be courting in the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. But Rubio's statement comes at a time that Republicans increasingly see themselves losing the battle for public opinion over gay marriage.
In a sign of how fraught the issue has become, a prominent Christian conservative group just announced that it's eliminating its "marriage pledge," a 14-point credo the Family Leader circulated to candidates in 2012 that required them to pledge to back the definition of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman, among other things.