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Patrick Murphy calls on Marco Rubio to drop out of religious conference this week

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Even though Marco Rubio has already said he has no intention of backing out of an appearance at a religious conference in Orlando this week that critics have called an “anti-LGBT rally,” Patrick Murphy said on Monday that the Florida GOP Senator should do so.

“The Pulse shooting devastated the LGBT community in Orlando and across our state,” Murphy said in a statement issued on Monday. “For their Senator to speak alongside leaders espousing bigotry, just two months after that tragedy, is a disgrace.”

Rubio is scheduled to speak this Thursday in Orlando at “The Florida Renewal Project,” a two-day conference being sponsored by the Liberty Group, which has come under fire from some advocacy groups as being a hate group. It also has ties to the American Renewal Project, another group that LGBT activists have criticized.

Rubio has defended his appearance, telling Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times last week that, “The event I will be speaking at in Orlando is a gathering of local pastors and faith leaders. Leave it to the media and liberal activists to label a gathering of faith leaders as an anti-LGBT event. It is nothing of the sort. It is a celebration of faith,” he said.

The Florida Republican also went to talk about his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying, “I have always supported a traditional definition of marriage. But I recognize that a significant number of Americans hold a different view. Because marriage is regulated by the individual states, they have the right to petition their state legislature to change the law. And those of us who support traditional marriage also have a right to oppose those efforts.”

Murphy, a Jupiter Representative, is running for the U.S. Senate Democratic nomination this month, but appears already to be looking past the Aug. 30 primary and aiming towards the general in his takedown on Rubio.

“In his attempt to defend the indefensible, Marco Rubio referenced ‘strong values.’ Strong values like discrimination and hate? This isn’t what Florida stands for and this isn’t what I stand for,” Murphy says. “We fight for strong values like love and acceptance, for equal rights for the LGBT community and all Floridians. I call on Marco Rubio to immediately withdraw from this hate rally and apologize to the LGBT community he is supposed to represent.”

Among those scheduled to speak at the conference this week is David Barton, who has called homosexuality “absolutely reprehensible and disgusting” and said that marriage equality means we “are going down as a nation.”

Murphy is already pushing a general election campaign against Rubio. On Sunday, he criticized Rubio for his comments that that a woman does not have the right to an abortion, even if she is infected with the Zika virus and has reason to believe her baby will be born with severe microcephaly.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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