U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey encouraged Florida Democrats to look out for their LGBT friends and neighbors.
“The LGBT community faces a tremendous amount of hate every day,” Booker said Saturday evening during his keynote speech at the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue Gala. “Our nation is at an inflection point. You drive out hate with love.”
Booker, 47, is a first-term Senator and has been mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential selection for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. He spoke to a ballroom of more than 1,200 people at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood.
“We are not called to be a nation of tolerance,” Booker said. “We are called to be a nation of love.”
In a 52-minute speech, Booker condemned the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and said that while the LGBT community has made great strides it is clear bigotry and violence remain a threat.
“You can now get married but still be fired from your job for that marriage,” Booker said.
Booker was introduced by Florida’s senior U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson said he is seeking to limit access to the AR-15, an assault style rifle used by the gunman in the Orlando massacre. On Monday, the U.S. Senate failed to pass new firearm regulations on a party line vote.
“What am I going to tell those families?” Nelson asked at a Capitol Hill press conference, in reference to the 49 individuals who lost their lives in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Also speaking at Saturday night’s gala were DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant, Miami Senator Oscar Braynon and Tampa Representative Janet Cruz. Booker, from the podium, recognized Florida’s LGBTA Caucus Chairman Terry Fleming, joking they both had great haircuts. Both men are bald.
Later, using an African proverb, Booker urged Democrats to stick together.
“If you want to go fast go alone,” Booker said. “If you want to go further, go together.”
In a surprising move, Booker voiced an endorsement of U.S. Congressman Patrick E. Murphy (D-Jupiter) in his campaign to fill Marco Rubio’s Senate seat. Murphy faces fellow Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) in August’s primary election. Grayson also attended Saturday’s gala at the Diplomat.
Booker, former Mayor of Newark, said Murphy, 33, will bring “fresh, new leadership” to the Senate.