The Florida Republican is defending his party's harmful 'Don't Say Gay' legislation.
In 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) advised his fellow Christian conservatives to show tolerance toward LGBTQ people. Six years later, Rubio has made an about-face and is supporting Florida's attacks on LGBTQ rights.
In the aftermath of the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead, Rubio won reelection in part by claiming to be an ally for the LGBTQ community.
But as he seeks a third Senate term in 2022, Rubio is no longer pretending to support the rights of LGBTQ Floridians.
Last week, the Republican majority in the Florida Legislature approved a bill that would prohibit public schools from acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ families and people to younger students. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has indicated his support for the so-called "Don't Say Gay" legislation, saying, "We want our kids to be kids." His press secretary attacked opponents of the legislation, calling them "groomers" who are hoping to push kids to be LGBTQ.
On Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned that the Florida bill "sends a signal to LGBTQ+ youth that they are not fully accepted." In response, Rubio tweeted on Tuesday that Murthy "argues that schools should be having discussions with children from 5 to 8 years old about sexual orientation & gender identity."
Just 14 minutes later, Rubio posted a Bible quote from the Book of Isaiah about Sodom and Gomorrah — two ancient cities that LGBTQ rights opponents often cite to condemn same-sex relationships: "Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!"
Rubio has a long history of opposing LGBTQ equality, but he changed his rhetoric in 2016 when running for reelection to the Senate after losing the Republican presidential primary to Donald Trump. Though he'd promised not to seek reelection, Rubio seized on the Pulse massacre as an excuse to change his mind.
While running for reelection in 2016, Rubio told a group of Christian conservatives that "loving our LGBT neighbors is not a betrayal of what the Bible teaches" and that the United States "has been marred by discrimination against and rejection of gays and lesbians."
"Do not judge, or you will be judged," Rubio said at the time. "To love our neighbors we must recognize that many have experienced sometimes severe condemnation and judgment from some Christians. They have heard some say that the reason God will bring condemnation on America is because of them — as if somehow God was willing to put up with adultery and gluttony and greed and pride, but now this is the last straw."
Rubio also used the mistreatment of LGBTQ people in other countries as an argument against international leaders he disliked. He reminded his followers that gay Cubans were imprisoned under Fidel Castro in the 1970s and condemned the Russian government's mistreatment of LGBTQ people in Chechnya in 2017, demanding "#expressionNOToppression."
But his rhetoric proved to be only that.
In 2020, he attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for her vocal support of marriage equality, calling it "condescension."
According to the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit LGBTQ-rights organization that keeps a scorecard of congressional votes on issues of equality, Rubio earned a score of zero in each of the last three sessions of Congress — meaning he voted against the interests of the LGBTQ community at every single opportunity.
Rubio is now backing a statewide bill that will override the decisions of educators and local school boards about how best to educate elementary school kids about diverse families, a stance that also contradicts his previously stated views.
In November 2015, he told a right-wing political forum in Iowa that educational policies were best set as locally as possible. "I honestly and truly and fully believe not only is it [sic] constitutionally belong at the state and local level," he said, "but you will get better results when the people making those K through 12 decisions are the people closest to our people."
A Rubio spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.