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In Concession, Florida Sen. Nelson Promises to Fight for LGBTQ Rights

Bill Nelson lost his Senate seat in 2018 to Republican Rick Scott

The Democrat came up short in a recount, but said he won't abandon social justice causes.

With a manual recount done, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has officially lost his seat to Republican Rick Scott. But in a concession speech delivered Sunday, Nelson promised to continue fighting for inalienable rights, including those of LGBTQ citizens.

"I will continue to fight on and on for the inalienable human rights that are the soul and glory of the American experiment: civil rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the sacred right to vote," he said in a video statement.

Nelson lost to Scott, Florida's two-term governor, by 10,033 votes, or 0.12 percent of nearly 8.2 million votes cast.

The race proved to be one of the closest this year. President Donald Trump made two visits to Florida in the last week before the midterms to rally votes for Scott, who spent about $70 million of his own fortune in the course of the race.

The election likely marks the end of Nelson's 18-year Senate career, and it's interesting he listed civil rights in a concession speech. Nelson came out in support of marriage equality in 2013, according to the Tampa Bay Times, months after he last faced voters and almost a year after President Barack Obama famously evolved on the issue.

But in his concession speech, the one-time astronaut struck an uncharacteristically progressive tone on a number of issues, from voter suppression -- a suddenly personal passion -- to universal health care.

He also took veiled swipes at Trump without ever speaking the president's name.

"We have to move beyond a politics that aims not just to defeat but to destroy," he said, "where truth is treated as disposable, where falsehoods abound, and the free press is assaulted as the 'enemy of the people.' There's been a gathering darkness in our politics in recent years. My hope today can be found in the words of John F. Kennedy, who said civility can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future."

As for Scott, his own relationship with the LGBTQ community has been more shaky.

While governor of Florida during the 2016 Pulse massacre, Scott focused on the terrorism angle of the shooting; the killer who attacked the gay bar swore allegiance to ISIS.

After the attack, Scott promised to establish employment protections in Florida and end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but never followed through, something which Equality Florida reminded voters of repeatedly over the course of the Senate race.

But Scott in 2016 did call marriage equality the "law of the land" during a Fox News interview, about a month after the shooting, and promised to push the Republican Party in that direction.

And Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee seeking the governorship of Florida, also formally conceded over the weekend; antigay Republican Ron DeSantis will be the state's new chief executive.

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