As Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump were set to headline the mega-conservative American Renewal Project conference in Orlando Thursday and Friday, LGBT equality advocates were quick to point out the insensitivity.
After all, the event fell on the day that marks exactly two months since a gunman killed 49 in a shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, a hub for the area's gay community. Meanwhile, Trump and Rubio would be speaking to a room full of evangelicals who have uttered such phrases as "militant homofascism" and called HIV/AIDS God's punishment for being gay.
Both Republicans have awkwardly attempted to embrace the LGBT community; Trump has claimed the LGBT community loves him and Rubio even tried to say the Pulse massacre compelled him to seek reelection.
Equality Florida called BS Thursday at a rally in Orlando.
Quite a few speakers offered compelling remarks, but perhaps the most moving was largely overlooked.
Brandon Wolfe, a survivor of the shooting who lost two friends, couldn't be at Thursday's rally, but he sent along a statement condemning Trump and Rubio for in essence promoting the same kind of hate that led to the deaths of his friends June 12 even as the politicians claim to be allied with the community.
"Make no mistake, this was an attack on us. In our safe space. To break our collective spirits. People have said it better than I can: "The gay agenda is simply to survive the day". Trying not to get called a faggot. Dodging side streets for fear of detection."
"Constantly masking our identities in the hopes that we will not be left alone to die. But for what? To be massacred in our home and then used for political fodder?
"That is what makes this so disturbing. From Donald Trump, we can expect more of the same. More bigotry, more casual allusions to violence, more egotistical bluster. The truly appalling one is Marco Rubio, the man who is supposed to guide us, protect us, and REPRESENT us. This is the man who called himself our ally. Now? He's attempting to resuscitate his failed political career by using our pain as a step stool."
Read Wolfe's full statement here.
Trump's and Rubio's attendance was easy fodder for Democratic candidates.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, may become Rubio's opponent after the Aug. 30 primary. He seized on Rubio's appearance as a chance to draw contrasts between himself and his opponent.
“Today marks the two-month anniversary of the Pulse tragedy, and this anti-LGBT event is taking place just miles from where it occurred," Murphy said in a written statement. "For Florida's Senator to stand alongside these homophobic leaders and his bigoted candidate for President is a disgrace. Marco Rubio should do the right thing for Florida’s LGBT community for once in his career and not attend this hateful event.”