From the U.S. Senate floor, Marco Rubio took a stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin and denounced the Chechen leaders who are denying reports that gay men are being persecuted in the region, the Washington Blade reports.
“We should use our voice on the global stage to call attention to these horrifying acts and to ensure that they are condemned in an appropriate way, ultimately in the hopes that they will be stopped,” Rubio said Monday, according to the Blade.
Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported early this month that over 100 gay men in Chechnya have been rounded up and put in makeshift prisons that amount to concentration camps, where many survivors have reported they were tortured. The paper also said that at least three gay men have been killed at the camps. Russian and Chechen leaders have said there are no confirmed complaints of persecution, and the latter have even denied that there are any gay people in Chechnya, a semiautonomous republic within Russia.
“Well, the actual complaints are all around us,” Rubio said. “They have been well documented in publications throughout the world, but instead, Vladimir Putin is choosing to prop up [Ramzan] Kadyrov, the Chechen brutal dictator, and prop up his brutal regime instead of holding them accountable.”
“There have been reports in the past of similar abuses, although these reports seem to be the most brutal and should provoke anger in all of us,” the Florida senator continued. “We should never, ever tolerate human rights violations against any person for their political views, their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation.”
U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Nikki Haley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Vice President Joe Biden have all called out antigay persecution. The State Department issued a statement condemning the attacks, but President Trump has yet to speak or take action on the issue.
Rubio is known for having an anti-LGBT record. He's voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He also supports the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow government officials to deny services to LGBT people because of "religious liberty."
During a July press conference in Orlando about the effect of the Pulse massacre on local businesses, Rubio was confronted by activists. David Thomas Moran, who was one of the activists who staged a sit-in at Rubio's office for 49 hours in honor of the 49 lives lost at Pulse, told Rubio he had "blood" on his hands because "I don't feel like you're doing anything to support the queer Latinx community that has been so devastated by this, the LGBTQ+ community. I need to know what is your relationship with the [National Rifle Association]. Why are you talking to transphobes and homophobes?"
Rubio responded to Moran by saying, "I disagree with your assessment. Homophobia means you’re scared of people. I’m not scared of people. Quite frankly, I respect all people. We probably have a disagreement on the definition of marriage."
On the two-month anniversary of the Pulse shooting, he spoke at an event organized by a network of antigay groups. But shortly after the attack on Pulse, Rubio told The Advocate, “The gay community was targeted. ... We know what ISIS has done to people they accuse of being homosexual. They throw them off of buildings. They execute them." Gunman Omar Mateen was reportedly an ISIS sympathizer.
Watch a video of Rubio delivering his remarks in the Senate below.
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) April 25, 2017