Marco Rubio is standing with the LGBTQ community for the first time.
The government of Chechnya (a majority-Muslim region of Russia) has been drawing international anger for rounding up and imprisoning members of its LGBTQ community — mainly gay men. Reports claim that at least 100 men have been detained at concentration camps for homosexuals in Chechnya and at least three have been killed. The men detained at these prisons are being subjected to extreme torture, including multiple beatings a day, having their hands electrocuted, and being forced to sit on bottles. As the chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, And Global Women’s Issues, Marco Rubio has spoken up against the Chechen dictator, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his plans to exterminate all gay men in the region by the start of Ramadan. The arrests of the men are being executed based on proof or speculation of being gay.
“Unfortunately, this is not a new reality for those living under the brutal tyranny of the Chechen leader, who by the way happens to be a loyal ally of Vladimir Putin,” Rubio said on the Senate floor. “There have been reports in the past of similar abuses although these reports seem to be the most brutal and should provoke anger in all of us. We should never ever tolerate human rights violations against any person for their political views, their religious beliefs, [or] their sexual orientation.”
Rubio spoke passionately about the need to condemn the act of violence against Chechnya’s LGBTQ community and the need to condemn the government in the most efficient way possible. Canadian LGBTQ activists are calling for the Canadian government to start granting emergency visas to LGBTQ Chechens in order to relocate them away from the present and imminent danger of violence and death by the hands of their government.
Rubio has long drawn criticism from LGBTQ activists because of his previous stances on LGBTQ issues. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Rubio has consistently voted against the interests and rights of the LGBTQ community in Florida and the United States. He has voted to block marriage equality, prevent same-sex couples from adopting, and even vowed to vote against his own immigration bill if it allowed immigration rights for same-sex couples. There are even reports of Rubio speaking at a fundraiser to raise money for the debunked and harmful practice of conversion therapy, which is its own form of torture on LGBTQ people.
“If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I’m gone. I’m off it,” Rubio told CNN about his immigration bill. “I’ve said that repeatedly. I don’t think that’s going to happen, and it shouldn’t happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is.”
Are we seeing a change in Rubio’s attitude towards LGBTQ people? Only time will tell.