Rubio Headlines Fundraiser For Policy Group That Supports Conversion Therapy

Sen. Marco Rubio headlined a closed-to-the-media fundraiser for the Center for Arizona Policy, the group that helped push the state's religious freedom bill later vetoed by former Gov. Jan Brewer, on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio headlined a fundraiser Wednesday night for the conservative Arizona group behind much of the state's socially conservative legislation.

Although there was no media inside the room at the Center for Arizona Policy fundraiser, held at Arizona Christian University, and a spokesperson from Rubio's campaign did not respond to repeated requests Wednesday for comment about the event or what Rubio planned to say, at least two attendees did post on social media from within the event with remarks from Rubio.

"Even as I'm speaking to you now, a human life is being terminated in America," a congressional staffer attending Wednesday's event quoted Rubio as saying. The staffer works for Rep. Trent Franks, who also was in attendance.

"Without faith at the core of our society, you fall into an era of moral relativism," the staffer quoted Rubio as saying.

When Rubio was discussing marriage, the Franks staffer did not quote Rubio directly, but he tweeted, "Dangerous era in America, says @marcorubio, where if you believe in the traditional definition of marriage, you're a bigot."

Rubio did not apparently reference or discuss the center's stated support for conversion therapy — a practiced banned when used on minors in New Jersey, California, and DC — and his spokesperson did not respond to a question asking whether Rubio agrees with the group's view that "homosexuals [can] modify[] their behavior and becoming heterosexual through Christian ministries and counseling."

Just last month, Rubio expressed a different view, saying, "[T]he bottom line is, I believe that sexual preference is something people are born with."

Arizona state Sen. Katie Hobbs, the Democratic minority leader in the state Senate, spoke with BuzzFeed News about the event, noting that an abortion bill was one of the two key pieces of legislation the center pushed in the legislature this term. The other related to vouchers, she said. In the past legislative term, the group had pushed the religious liberty bill that eventually was vetoed by former Gov. Jan Brewer.

Hobbs criticized Rubio's appearance before the Center for Arizona Policy. "I know that's there's folks in their base for whom these social issues matter," she said of the Republican Party, "but average Americans should be worried that these are the issues a presidential candidate is focusing on." She described the group as having power within the state capitol — but also out of the mainstream.

First up was the head of the Center for Arizona Policy, Cathi Herrod:

The founder of the center, who is the president of Arizona Christian University, also spoke before Rubio took to the stage:

"It's going to take courage to stand for Biblical truth. It's going to be costly, but it's the right thing to do." - @LenMunsil #azright

In a photo from the university president's wife, the "honored guest," Sen. Marco Rubio, is about to take the stage.

A congressional staffer for Rep. Trent Franks detailed much of Rubio's speech:

Senator @marcorubio takes the stage to a standing ovation at the @azpolicy event. #azright

"You cannot have a strong country without strong values. Only one institution that can teach these values: the family." @marcorubio

Senator @marcorubio says that our government should not come up with policies that are anti-family or anti-marriage. So true!

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