Florida Senator Marco Rubio defends being set to address anti-gay rally two months after Orlando massacre

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has defended an appointment to speak at an event set up by Kim Davis’ law firm, on the two-month anniversary of the worst anti-LGBT attack in the state’s history.

The former Republican Presidential hopeful was once seen as a moderate within the party, but rallied against LGBT rights during the Presidential race in a bid to win over conservatives.

After the June 12 Orlando massacre he had spoken for the need for unity in Florida, travelling alongside the President to pay respects to the 49 victims – who were mostly LGBT people of colour.

But Rubio appears to be back to his old ways, and has been confirmed as a headline speaker at an August 12 event co-organised by the Liberty Counsel – the anti-LGBT law firm who represented Kim Davis.

He will speak alongside Davis’ lawyer Mat Staver, an avowed opponent of equality, at the ‘Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project’.

Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, Rubio attacked the media for criticising his appearance at the event saying it is a “celebration of faith”.

“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,” he said.

“Because I believe that a strong America is not possible without strong families and strong values, for years now I have participated in events hosted by faith leaders to speak about the cultural and social issues before America, including the importance of parents and families, religious liberties and combatting poverty.

“I have always supported a traditional definition of marriage. But I recognize that a significant number of Americans hold a different view. Because marriage is regulated by the individual states, they have the right to petition their state legislature to change the law. And those of us who support traditional marriage also have a right to oppose those efforts.

“This debate should be conducted in a way that is respectful of the views and the dignity of those on both sides. That is the way I have expressed myself each time I have been asked to opine on this issue. And that is how I intend to continue to do so.”

An investigation recently found that Staver, who rose to fame with the hard right alongside Davis, has secretly been helping Republican lawmakers draft a wave of anti-LGBT legislation in at least 20 states, leading to a wave of anti-LGBT ‘conscience’ bills and ‘bathroom bills’.

Despite being embraced by Republicans across the country, Staver’s own personal views about gay people are shockingly extreme. He recently directly equated LGBT rights activists and paedophiles.

He said: “We’ve opened the door for every rapist and paedophile. Frankly, when you look at some of the people behind the North Carolina [LGBT anti-discrimination] law and some of these other laws, who are they?

“They have been identified, some of them that have been advocating this, as paedophiles. Some of this is being financed by those who are actively promoting paedophilia.”

A protester last month confronted Senator Rubio during a visit to Orlando, saying “you have blood on your hands”.

Staver has also previously claimed children will soon be forced into same-sex relationships, while his wife, Liberty Counsel’s president, says she brings a handgun to the toilets to scare off trans women.

According to JoeMyGod, LGBT activists have previously accused Rubio of hypocrisy over Orlando

Jay Brown of the Human Rights Campaign said: “To be using the tragedy in Orlando as a time to reflect on his Senate career, when his career and his promises on the campaign trail have been anti-LGBTQ consistently, it’s just staggering to think he would be using this moment for his own personal ambitions.”