August 13, 2016 at 5:03 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Mother of gay Pulse nightclub massacre victim blasts Rubio

Disarm Hate, gun control, Christine Leinonen, gay news, Washington Blade

Christine Leinonen was a featured speaker at the “Disarm Hate” rally at Potomac Park on Aug. 13, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The mother of a gay victim of the Pulse nightclub massacre on Saturday blasted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for speaking at an anti-LGBT conference in Orlando, Fla.

Christine Leinonen told the Washington Blade before she spoke at the “Disarm Hate” gun control rally in West Potomac Park that it is “infuriating” the Florida Republican delivered the keynote address at the “Rediscovering God in America” conference on the second month anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Leinonen’s son, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, and his fiancé, Juan Guerrero, were among the 49 people who died inside the Pulse nightclub on Jun 12.

Christine Leinonen spoke in support of “common sense” gun control and endorsed Hillary Clinton at last month’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, an LGBT political action committee that supports gun control, announced earlier this month that Christine Leinonen had joined its board of directors.

Christine Leinonen told the Blade that Rubio sent a condolence letter to the funeral home in which her son’s funeral took place. She then criticized the Florida Republican for voting “against every piece of common sense gun legislation” in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, has also sharply criticized Rubio for not supporting gun control measures.

“He didn’t feel our pain enough or long enough to make some real action that we can live in a safer society,” Christine Leinonen told the Blade. “He didn’t do that and that’s what he’s elected to do.”

‘We live with the pain everyday’

Rubio, who ended his presidential campaign earlier this year, announced after the Pulse nightclub massacre that he would seek re-election in the U.S. Senate. The Florida Republican has also endorsed Donald Trump, who reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from the country in the wake of the June 12 shooting.

Christine Leinonen told the Blade she supports U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) in the Democratic primary that will take place on Aug. 30. She said the Florida congressman “has an excellent chance of unseating Rubio” in November.

“I wake up everyday with the pain as if it were yesterday, but Marco Rubio the next day had no pain,” Christine Leinonen told the Blade. “We live with the pain everyday. He has no pain.”

The Blade has reached out to a Rubio spokesperson for comment.

Gun control advocacy ‘totally for my son’

Christine Leinonen and dozens of others spoke at the “Disarm Hate” rally that took place on one of the hottest days of the year in the nation’s capital.

More than 500 people gathered in West Potomac Park. None of the speakers were openly LGBT Latino, even though the aforementioned community was disproportionately affected by the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Sam Parks, a spokesperson for Jason Hayes, a New Jersey hairdresser and LGBT activist who organized the rally, noted to the Blade that Kirsten John Foy of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network was among the speakers. Parks conceded it was “just difficult to get every aspect of what we needed here.”

“We’ve done our best to try to bring as many diverse groups together,” he told the Blade.

As for Christine Leinonen, she said her advocacy in support of gun control is “totally for my son.”

“Unfortunately I have a voice,” she told the Blade. “I am obliged to do that. I don’t have a choice anymore.”

Disarm Hate, gay news, Washington Blade

“Disarm Hate” rally (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • Sorry for her loss but her anger is misdirected.

  • You are wrong that there were not diverse speakers at this rally. There was 100% a LGBTQ Latino speakers, including at least one that spoke in both English and Spanish. Perhaps you only spent a short amount of time at the rally but many of the speakers touched upon the intersectionality of these issues and the need for us to come together as a community to speak out against hate and violence.

    • I spoke with the press representative of the rally and he confirmed there were no LGBT Latino speakers. Can you please tell me who the LGBT Latino speakers were?

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