“My message was the message I gave,” he told WPLG, a south Florida television station, after he voted in Miami ahead of the state’s Aug. 30 primary. “[It was] the message that I’ve given before, which is irrespective of how you feel about the definition of marriage we should all respect each other’s views.”
Rubio spoke to reporters three days after he delivered the keynote address at the “Rediscovering God in America” conference that took place on the second month anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
The American Renewal Project, founded by David Lane, who predicted car bombs would explode in D.C. and two other cities if “homosexuals” prayed at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration, organized the conference. Donald Trump and Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based anti-LGBT legal group who represented Rowan County (Ky.) Clerk Kim Davis, are among those who spoke at the gathering.
Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who is one of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre, told the Washington Blade on Saturday during an interview at a gun control rally in D.C. that it is “infuriating” Rubio spoke at the conference. The Florida Republican did not mention Christine Leinonen or the Pulse nightclub massacre when he responded to WPLG’s question.
“That was an audience of evangelical ministers and pastors from central Florida,” said Rubio. “I spoke to them about how important that was for the role of the church to be welcoming to all people and that you don’t necessarily have to endorse what somebody might do in order to accept them for who they are and love them.”
“I understand there were people that spoke at that gathering who have said things that I don’t say,” he added. “I have my own message and I went there to deliver that message to an important audience of pastors and leaders of our faith community about the important role they play in bringing us together as a country.”
Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, and the Democratic National Committee are among the groups that criticized Rubio for speaking at the conference.
Rubio suspended his presidential campaign in March after he lost the Florida primary. He announced his re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate in the days after the Pulse nightclub massacre.