Former presidential candidate Marco Rubio is scheduled to speak at a rally organized by a coalition of radical antigay groups on the two-month anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Hosted by the Florida Renewal project, the two-day event, held on August 11 and 12, is called “Rediscovering God in America.” The group is an offshoot of the American Renewal Project. According to its president, David Lane, the project is an effort to “engage the church in a culture war for religious liberty, to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and to re-establish a Christian culture.”
Lane, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “key background organizer for the evangelical community,” has a long history of opposing LGBT equality.
In 2000, Lane helped get the anti-marriage equality ballot initiative Proposition 22 passed in California and has further opposed same-sex unions in the years since, saying that supporting equal marriage is like supporting slavery. During Obama’s 2013 inauguration, Lane claimed that God would strike down gay attendees by car bombing them.
Lane has said that LGBT acceptance will end in the “utter destruction” of the United States and called homosexuality a “symptom of advanced cultural decay,” “unnatural,” and a “Marxist psychological conditioning plot.” He even compared LGBT people to Nazis.
The group’s August event will also feature appearances from a number of other leading antigay activists, including David Barton, Ken Graves, Bill Federer, and Mat Staver.
Barton, head of the national pro-family organization WallBuilders, believes that God is personally blocking a cure for HIV as a punishment for sin. Federer, an author and right-wing speaker, has blamed homosexuality for the spread of Islamic terrorism. Graves, a pastor in Maine, once referred to LGBT equality as “militant homofascism,” which he believes “seeks to take over our land and make it Sodom.”
Most notably, Staver is the president of Liberty Counsel, the right-wing group manning the legal defense for Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky. clerk who was briefly jailed after refusing to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses in 2015. He also believes that LGBT rights will lead to “forced homosexuality.”
After the Pulse attack, which claimed the lives of 49 people, Staver called the memorials in honor of the victims “homosexual love fests.”
Rubio has been vocal about the Orlando shooting, naming LGBT people in an address about the shooter’s alleged connection to radical Islam. “The gay community was targeted,” he said, adding: “We know what ISIS has done to people they accuse of being homosexual. They throw them off of buildings. They execute them.”
His American Renewal Project appearance, however, is a reminder that Rubio has been less than supportive of the LGBT community when they aren’t targeted by alleged terrorists.
Throughout his career in Congress, Rubio has fought equal rights at nearly every opportunity. He has repeatedly and virulently opposed same-sex marriage, as well as including LGBT people in hate crime legislation.
The Florida Senator voted against ENDA, which would prevent workers from being fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. He is also in favor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would enable Kim Davis-style discrimination from government officials under the guise of “religious liberty.”
Rubio has also robocalled on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage, a right-wing anti-gay organization that lobbied for California’s Proposition 8, and spoke at an event for a pro-conversion therapy organization.
Following the Pulse shooting, the Florida Senator claimed he was “deeply impacted” by the tragedy. “My family and I will praying about all of this, and we’ll see what I need to do next in regards to how I can best serve,” the senator told radio show host Hugh Hewitt, paving the way for his decision to run for reelection to Congress.
In response, the Miami New Times alleged that Rubio was using the LGBT community to further his ambitions, calling him “Florida's most brazen political opportunist.”