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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Groups plan to protest Rubio speech at religious conference in Orlando



Equality Florida and other groups plan to protest Marco Rubio’s appearance next week at a religious conference in Orlando, saying the Republican senator “continues to insult the lives of 49 people killed in the worst hate crime against LGBT people in American history.”

“Together we will make it absolutely clear that hatred and bigotry will no longer go unchallenged, especially here in Orlando,” reads an organizing website, which notes several conference participants, including Mat Staver and David Barton, hold strongly antigay positions.

Rubio is speaking at the Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project, which is being held Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. It comes two months after the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“This event is about encouraging people of faith to engage in the civic arena. We have been working with Florida Pastors for years and will continue to do so,” America Renewal Project said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

“The event is currently closed to the press and specific speaking dates/times are not currently public.”

Critics question the privacy. “If Rubio is so adamant that this event isn’t anti-LGBT and is ‘respectful of the views and the dignity of those on both sides,’ why is the event so secretive?” asked Laura Epstein, a spokeswoman for People For the American Way.

Rubio yesterday told the Times that it’s not antigay. “It is nothing of the sort. It is a celebration of faith,” he said in a statement that sought to balance his support for “traditional marriage” with opposing views.

[Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2016 3:40pm]


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