In a speech to pastors, Sen. Marco Rubio urged religious conservatives to love gay people, instead of judging them for their behavior.
Rubio began by reasserting his belief that marriage was between one man and one woman, but cautioned people of faith to avoid “heated rhetoric” against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
The Florida senator, who is running for re-election, made his remarks during the Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project event in Orlando, Florida.
During his speech, he called Christians to remember their first command from Scripture, to love one’s neighbor.
“In order to love people you have to listen to them,” he said, “You have to understand their perspective, their hopes and their dreams and their fears and their pain.”
Rubio explained that even though he supported the traditional definition of marriage, Christians should realize that the love shared between same-sex couples was real.
To love our neighbors in the LGBT community, we should recognize that even as we stand firm in the belief that marriage is the union between one man and one woman, there are those in that community and in same-sex relationships whose love for one another is real, and who feel angry and humiliated that the law did not recognize their relationship as a marriage.
To love our neighbors, we must recognize that many have experienced sometimes, severe condemnation and judgment from some Christians. They have heard some say that the reason God will bring condemnation on America is because of them. As if somehow, God was willing to put up with adultery, and gluttony, and greed and pride, but now, this is the last straw.
To love our neighbors, we must abandon a spirit of judgment. Do not judge or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged. And with a measure you use it will be used to measure you. And we should remember not to ignore the plank in our own eye.
He cited a long history of discrimination against gay people in America, including the federal government banning and investigating gay employees, denying gay people service in public places, and law enforcement officials specifically targeting the gay community.
“I want to be clear with you, abandoning judgment and loving our LGBT neighbors is not a betrayal of what the Bible teaches, it is a fulfillment of it,” he said.
He cited the story of Jesus pardoning the woman accused of adultery as an example of how to love someone without endorsing their behavior.
“Jesus showed us how to do this,” he said. “Jesus showed us that we do not have to endorse what people do in order to accept them for who they are – children of a loving and a merciful God.”
Rubio referred to the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Orlando as a moment when Christians came together to pray for the suffering gay community. He recalled attending a prayer service for the victims at the First Baptist Church where some people remarked that it was unusual for them to feel welcome in a place of worship.
He urged all Christians to open their hearts to gay people and welcome them.
“If any of us, myself included, in any way, have ever made anyone feel that Christianity wants nothing to do with them, then I believe deeply that we have failed deeply to represent our Lord Jesus Christ who time and again went out of his way to reach out to the marginalized and to the forgotten of his time,” Rubio said.
Watch Rubio’s full speech to pastors below: