On the eve of early voting’s end Sunday night, Congressional District 7 hopeful Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of House District 49 and Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf, who also works with the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, came together outside the Florida Coordinated Campaign office on Colonial Drive to promote the election of leaders who will advance LGBT issues and help curb gun violence.
The importance of the election was stressed by many of the speakers, even as they addressed the fact that people say that every time.
“The stakes could not be higher,” Smith opened. “I know we hear that every election. But for real.”
Smith said the LGBT community had seen a lot of progress in 2015 with the legalization of gay marriage, but with that also came backlash and strife as conservative lawmakers pushed back against the decision.
“Around the country, there were so-called “religious freedom” bills, that really just attempted to chip away at the rights of LGBT people,” he said, drawing a comparison to the similar attempts made by some politicians to chip away at women’s reproductive rights.
Because of both of those things as well as the devastation wrought upon the community after the June 12 Pulse nightclub attack, Smith said it was extremely important to send leaders to office who would stand up for their community.
Wolf recounted the nightmare of Pulse, saying the most surreal and gut-wrenching moment early on was the realization that two of his friends would never make it out of the club alive again. He criticized John Mica for accepting a donation from the gun lobby days after the Pulse shooting, and for not representing the LGBT community.
“Stephanie Murphy, unlike John Mica, is a real leader,” Wolf said. “Mica is despicable. All he sees is the dollar signs on the bottom of his checks from the NRA. He’s still standing with the gun lobby. There is only one person in this race fighting for me,” he said, referring of course to Murphy.
He also hit Marco Rubio on similar notes, accusing Rubio of being an opportunist using the Pulse attack to further his own political ambitions.
“After the Pulse attack happened, Rubio said ‘now I have to return to the Senate,’” Wolf said. “He said he’d fight for the people he’s been stepping on for years, then returned to Washington and voted down a gun control bill. He took my pain and used it as a stepladder to revive a failed political career.”
Murphy attacked Mica on his zero percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign and his A rating from the NRA, and said she was proud of her own endorsements from pro-LGBT groups and other tangentially related ones.
“As a teacher, I don’t usually advocate getting F’s,” she said, “but I’m so proud of my F from the NRA. I was the first candidate endorsed by the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, and I was endorsed by the Americans for Responsible Solutions. These endorsements are a reflection of my values.”
Contrasting Mica’s record against the LGBT community, including voting against gay marriage and for the First Amendment Defense Act Murphy claimed would allow for discrimination against LGBT individuals, versus her own pledge to fight for the rights of everyone, Murphy said she believed she was “on the right side of history.”
“Where you stand on LGBT rights can be seen as a litmus test for your humanity,” she said. “In that respect, Mica has failed.”