ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio stressed his opposition to same-sex marriage while also calling on fellow Christians to “love” and understand LGBT people in a speech before a gathering of conservative pastors in Orlando on Friday.

The two-day event at the Hyatt Regency, titled “Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project” and sponsored by the Florida Renewal Project, was described as “an anti-LGBT rally” by Florida Democrats who criticized Rubio for speaking there two months after the Pulse shootings at a gay nightclub.

Rubio, who has said the gathering was “nothing of the sort,” proclaimed his support for “the union of one man and one woman.”

“It is now undeniable that there is a growing number of Americans who seek to expand that definition to include the union of two people of the same sex,” Rubio said in his speech. “I continue to support the traditional definition of marriage.”

“And I do so not because I seek to impose my views on others, not because I seek to discriminate against anyone … but because I believe the union of a man and a woman is a special relationship with an extraordinary record of success in raising children and strong and successful people,” he said.

Rubio criticized opposition to same-sex marriage being called “hate speech” and defended “the right of Americans to not be forced to violate the teachings of their faith in this matter.”

“This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy,” he said.

But, he added, ” I must also speak to you about the rhetoric and actions of some of us who believe in traditional marriage, too. As we engage in the civic life of our country we are called to two important tasks. Yes, to stand for what our faith teaches, but also, to love people.”

In order to love people, he said, “you have to listen to them. You have to understand their perspective, their hopes and their dreams and their fears and their pain.”

He cited discrimination against the LGBT community that included the federal government’s former policy of banning or firing gay employees and laws that barred them from being served in bars and restaurants.