Florida Senator Marco Rubio spent much of his unsuccessful bid for the presidency telling voters that he would not be running for reelection in the Senate. In fact, this talking point practically became a staple of his primary platform — this was his last go-round before becoming a private citizen. At times, it almost seemed he was suggesting if voters wanted to prevent himfrom throwing in the political towel, they better get out and cast their ballot for him. But it seems the Florida senator may have had a change of heart — and strangely enough, Rubio is using the LGBTQ community as his reasoning for that change. On Wednesday, Rubio confirmed he is seeking reelection to the Miami Herald.
Rubio said that he was "deeply impacted" by the Orlando massacre, a tragedy that hit the LGBTQ Latinx community in his home state especially hard. Now, the Florida senator — who spent a majority of his campaign championing against LGBTQ equality — is using that attack in the hopes that he can turn tragedy into his own political gain. Last week, Rubio told radio show host Hugh Hewitt that in the wake of the Orlando massacre, he was reconsidering what leadership role he could take in order to best combat terrorism. Unfortunately, I can't help but see Rubio's decision to run as exploiting the Orlando attack for personal political gains.
Rubio is certainly allowed to evolve on LGBTQ rights, but that problem is that in claiming the Orlando attack has moved him to reelection, it highlights he hasn't changed his views and advocacy for the community — at least not where it counts. Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Wintrerhof said of Rubio's (then suspected but not yet confirmed) Senate run on Tuesday, “Shameful is the only word that can be used to describe Marco Rubio considering — at this moment — a run for Senate after he's promised to roll back all the gains LGBTQ people have made.” Winterhof added, "From his votes to his rhetoric, Marco Rubio has never been an ally to LGBTQ people. To be clear, it’s because of lawmakers like Rubio that Floridians remain at risk for being fired or denied a job because of who they are or whom they love.”
Rubio may have had a change of heart on his Senate career, but we shouldn't expect Rubio to change the way he votes on LGBTQ rights. Rubio has said nothing to indicate to me that he would break from his record of supporting anti-LGBTQ proposals. Not to mention, his desire to combat "terrorism" in the Senate (and not anti-LGBTQ bigotry) largely misses the point.
And why trust a senator who has spent both his time in office and on the campaign trail making life more difficult for LGBTQ Floridians? Rubio has opposed marriage equality and transgender people's right to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and promised during his primary run that he would overturn all of President Obama's executive orders, including ones that offer crucial protections to LGBTQ Americans.
Given Rubio's history on LGBTQ rights, the Florida community cannot trust him to carry them forward. The fact that he used the massacre in Orlando as his turning point shows a greater drive toward political exploitation than actual change.