Donald Trump is set to address an event hosted by anti-LGBT evangelical leaders just miles from the site of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and on its two-month anniversary.
The event, called “Rediscovering God in America,” is hosted by the Florida Renewal Project and set to take place between Aug. 11-12 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The Brody Files of the conservative Christian Broadcasting Network first reported Trump would appear at the event.
According to a subsequent report in Bloomberg News, Trump is expected to meet with an estimated 700 conservative pastors and their spouses at the event.
News broke that Trump is expected to address the meeting just one week after LGBT advocates condemned Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for planning to keynote the anti-LGBT confab after citing the Orlando shooting as his reason for seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate.
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Rubio defended his planned appearance at the event by insisting the event isn’t anti-LGBT and blaming the media for mischaracterizing it.
“The event I will be speaking at in Orlando is a gathering of local pastors and faith leaders,” Rubio is quoted as saying. “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.”
Citing his opposition to same-sex marriage, Rubio is quoted as saying “because marriage is regulated by the individual states” people who support it “have the right to petition their state legislature to change the law,” implying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality was erroneous. Rubio reportedly added those who support “traditional marriage” — code for opposition to same-sex marriage — have “a right to oppose those efforts.”
Despite Rubio’s claim the event isn’t anti-LGBT, David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project, is quoted as saying in the Bloomberg article: “Homosexual totalitarianism is out of the closet, the militants are trying to herd Christians there.”
On behalf of his evangelical supporters, Trump has pledged on the campaign trail to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a change in the U.S. tax code made in 1954 prohibiting tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Lane is quoted as saying the campaign promise is “a good first step,” but he wants to hear more from Trump about opposition to LGBT rights.
“But what about the religious liberty of Christian photographers, Christian bakers, Christian retreat centers, and pastors who believe same-sex intercourse and marriage is sin?” Lane is quoted as saying. “These Christians were simply living out their deeply held convictions of their Christian faith when they politely refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding. Doesn’t the First Amendment give us all a right to our beliefs?”
Other planned attendees at the event have anti-LGBT histories, including Mat Staver, co-founder of Liberty Counsel, who has led litigation championing anti-LGBT causes, including defense of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and lawsuits against state bans on widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy. Last month after the Orlando shooting, Staver lamented some churches turned memorial gatherings into a “homosexual love fest.”
Another scheduled attendee is David Barton, a Republican Party activist, who has said God is preventing a cure for HIV/AIDS because it is a divine “penalty” for gay people.
Eliel Cruz, executive director of the pro-LGBT Faith In America, said Trump by planning to attend the event “continues to show he is a danger to the LGBT community.”
“He isn’t intelligent enough to understand how he’s being manipulated by the organizers of this conference,” Cruz said. “It is reported organizers of the event want to ask Trump about how he plans to combat ‘homosexual totalitarianism.’ Trump will nod his head and say ‘yes’ to any anti-LGBT requests made at the conference as his campaign is driven by his ego and he’ll do anything, including courting the most anti-LGBT voices, to become president.”
Trump said during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention he would protect LGBTQ people “from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Trump campaign seeking comment on how the candidate justifies appearing at an event hosted by anti-LGBT leaders near the shooting site in the aftermath of those remarks.
h/t Right Wing Watch