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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, Trump face criticism over religious conference held two months after Pulse massacre



Criticism continues to mount over an appearance of Marco Rubio — and now Donald Trump — at a religious conference in Orlando this week that comes two months after the Pulse shootings that devastated the gay community and generated international mourning.

“Just when you think Donald Trump and Marco Rubio couldn’t go any lower, they announce plans to court anti-LGBTQ activists in Orlando. On Thursday, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are going to seek votes from people who fundamentally believe we are not equal, who support dangerous and harmful conversion therapy and who have worked to export anti-LGBTQ hate abroad,” Human Rights Campaign said in a news release.

The American Renewal Project conference is being held Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency. It is not open to the general public, or reporters.

Rubio last week said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times: “The event I will be speaking at in Orlando is a gathering of local pastors and faith leaders. Leave it to the media and liberal activists to label a gathering of faith leaders as an anti-LGBT event. It is nothing of the sort. It is a celebration of faith.”

Though Rubio believes in “traditional marriage,” he’s said voters have a right to “petition” their state legislatures to change laws. Gay marriage is legal in Florida due to the courts. A Public Policy Polling survey in June revealed that 76 percent of voters in the state “either say that it's had no impact on their lives or a positive one, with just 24% claiming it's been a negative.”

After the Pulse slaying, Rubio acknowledged 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,” he told The Advocate.

But that has not quieted critics who say his appearance shows he is out of step with the country and incredibly insensitive given the timing and some of the speakers who will join Rubio.

For instance, Mat Staver, chairman of the Liberty Counsel, said that some mourning after the Pulse shooting amounted to a “homosexual love fest …. That’s not something that we need to celebrate, this is a tragedy that is against all Americans.”

Trump’s campaign would not confirm his attendance but it’s been widely reported that he will address hundreds of pastors.

“He will speak to them about his push to repeal the Johnson Amendment. The law, which has been in place for decades, has made it more difficult for pastors to speak out on political issues and candidates from the pulpit,” read a story from Christian Broadcasting News.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 8:48pm]


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