Marco Rubio, one of the most anti-LGBT members of the U.S. Senate, announced Wendesday that he will run for reelection, now that his presidential campaign is over.
In an online statement, Rubio expressed reservations about both major parties' presumptive presidential nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, saying Clinton would stick to "failed economic policies" and adding that he has "significant disagreements" with Trump.
"No matter who wins the White House," he continued, "we need a strong group of principled, persuasive leaders in Congress who will not only advance limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense, but also explain to Americans how it makes life better for them and their families. I ultimately changed my mind about this race because on that front, and in that fight, I believe I have something to offer."
Rubio did not mention LGBT issues in his statement, but he certainly has an anti-LGBT record. He wants to roll back marriage equality, opposes parenting by LGBT people, condemns President Obama’s executive orders banning anti-LGBT discrimination, and supports the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow discrimination if it is done in the name of religion. He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and opposed repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, was elected to his first term in 2010. He has made no secret of the fact that he dislikes being in the Senate, and during his run for the Republican presidential nomination, his rivals often criticized him for missing votes. After he ended his presidential bid, he was seeking jobs in the private sector.
But the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando “made the job of senator look a lot more weighty than anything Rubio might snag in the private sector,” USA Today reported earlier this month. And Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a friend of Rubio’s who had been planning to run for the Senate seat, advised him to get into the race — in a conversation the two had at the shooting site. "The two of them were shaken by what they saw in Orlando, the bloody sidewalks and the ashen faces of local, state and federal authorities," Politico reported a few days after the massacre.
Rubio also did not mention the Pulse tragedy in his announcement, but he had said earlier it was a factor in his consideration of a reelection bid. On Tuesday, before Rubio announced his bid but was considered likely to, the Human Rights Campaign denounced him for his anti-LGBT stances and for using the Pulse attack.
“Shameful is the only word that can be used to describe Marco Rubio considering — at this moment — a run for Senate after he’s promised to roll back all the gains LGBTQ people have made,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president of policy and political affairs, in a press release. “From his votes to his rhetoric, Marco Rubio has never been an ally to LGBTQ people. To be clear, it’s because of lawmakers like Rubio that Floridians remain at risk for being fired or denied a job because of who they are or whom they love.” The press release also noted that Rubio has “astonishingly suggested” that the Pulse attack was a factor in his decision to consider another run for Senate.
And Monday, Rubio voted against two Democrat-backed gun control measures aimed at avoiding further tragedies like the Pulse shooting and voted for two weaker Republican-endorsed bills. All four failed to pass.
If Lopez-Cantera pulls out of the Senate race, Rubio would still face opposition in the Republican primary. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a favorite of the Tea Party, is running, as are two businessmen, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff. U.S. Rep. David Jolly quit the Republican race for Senate last week. On the Democratic side, the major contenders are two U.S. House members, Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. The primary will be held August 30.
Rubio leads both Democrats in a new Quinnipiac poll, The Huffington Post reports. The outcome in Florida could decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.