Organizations supporting equality stood in solidarity on Sunday, filling the airwaves with profound statements of shock and heartache at the shooting at an LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando early that morning.
"While the crime has not yet been labeled a hate crime, more than 20 percent of hate crimes reported nationally in 2014 targeted people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the most recent FBI statistics available," The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said in a statement.
"Hate crimes based on sexual orientation currently account for 22 percent of all hate crimes in Florida, according to a report by Equality Florida, trailing only race as the most common motivation. As a percentage of the state population, LGBTQ Floridians are at the highest risk of being targeted with a hate crime. Florida law provides increased penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation."
Chad Griffin, president of the HRC, appeared along with Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality, Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Cornell Brooks, President, NAACP and Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition to denounce the violence and demand the incident be labeled as a hate crime.
"To think of these innocent people, some of them just kids, being attacked somewhere that might have been the only place on earth they felt free or even safe, it breaks our hearts," Griffin said.
He also recalled the significance of Pride Month being in June each year coming from a history of violence against the LGBTQ community. "Across the united states and around the world people are celebrating LGBT pride this month. Let us remember why the very first pride march was ever even held, to fight back against those who sought to keep us down, keep us closed, and keep us afraid. So, while today is a day of mourning in the wake of this tragedy, I say to LGBTQ people living in every corner of this country and around the globe: Continue to be bold, be loved and be proud. But right now, there are mothers and fathers, spouses and partners, siblings and friends who aren't thinking about any of that. They're simply wishing they had just one more moment to say I love you."
Griffin asked for prayers and for love to conquer Sunday's sorrow. He also remarked that it was too easy for dangerous people to acquire weapons. However, he hoped the takeaway message would be that the shooter hears anti-LGBTQ statements not just from ISIS but from right-wing leaders here in the United States as well.
"The maniac who did this was somehow conditioned to believe that LGBTQ people deserved to be massacred and that they are less than in this society," Griffin said. "And he wasn't just hearing these messages from a far-away terrorist organization. He was hearing it from politicians and radical LGBTQ extremists right here in our own country."
"Every time we see legislation that puts a target on the back of LGBT people, every time we hear a preacher that spews hate from the pulpit, every time a county clerk says acknowledging us violates her religious beliefs, it signals that we are less than," Griffin continued. "That is deeply engrained in the hate and bigotry that motivates such tragedy in this country and together that's what we must defeat because at the end of the day the same hatred that motivated this attack in Orlando is the same hatred that killed Matthew Shepherd so many years ago and the same hatred behind these killings is the same hatred that was behind the killings at Emanuel Church in Charleston or the temple in Wisconsin. It is the same hate we must all continue to fight each and every day.
NAACP president and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, echoed the sentiment saying that he stands shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with who he called his "brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community."
"Make no mistake. when you violate, when you desecrate, when you assassinate the humanity of any of us, it is a civil rights issue at the top of the NAACP's agenda," Brooks said.
Brooks mentioned the holidays and history being remembered and celebrated this month, specifically citing Ramadan, national LGBT pride month and one year after "nine students of scripture were assassinated in a church."
"For many of us, even this Methodist preacher, this is the Sabbath Day," Brooks continued. "When you take the lives of God's children on the Sabbath Day, people of every faith, of every ethnicity, of every hue have to stand up and take notice and stand out. It is that clear. This is a moment in which we have to be clear.
"We must create concentric circles of empathy and compassion," he said. "Yes, this is a trying hour. Yes, this is a difficult hour, but we find ourselves in the midst of a season of love. And we love one another so much that we're willing to stand up for one another's rights."
We will not allow the forces of hate to take down our citizens. We stand together as God's children. #Orlando https://t.co/bbSQ6SSMMx— NAACP (@NAACP) 1465765774.0
He also made a call for "sensible, thoughtful gun control" and for the shooting to be labeled a hate crime "whether or not this crime is called a homophobic act of terrorism" or "whether it is called a generic act of terrorism." He said that it is "a violation against our values as Americans. And as such, we have to be clear. We have to be strong. And we have to demonstrate to the entire world our resolve. We will not allow the forces of hate to take down our citizens."
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