June 12, 2016 at 12:54 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Advocacy groups condemn massacre at gay Fla. nightclub

Chad Griffin, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin described the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, as a “tragic act of violence.” (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Advocacy groups were quick to condemn Sunday’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left at least 50 people dead.

“We are devastated by this tragic act of violence, which has reportedly claimed the lives of at least 50 LGBTQ people and allies and injured more than 50 others,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “We are grieving for the victims and our hearts are broken for their friends, families, and for the entire community. This tragedy has occurred as our community celebrates pride, and now more than ever we must come together as a nation to affirm that love conquers hate.”

National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in a statement that her organization is “deeply shocked by this appalling act of violence against the LGBTQ community and our friends.”

“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones and with the injured,” said Carey. “While the motive behind this crime remains unclear, our resolve to live openly and proudly remains undiminished. Now is a time for the whole nation to stand together against violence.”

Lambda Legal expressed “sorrow and outrage” over the massacre that took place at the Pulse Nightclub.

“Our first thoughts, as they must be, are with the loved ones of those who were killed and with those who were injured or who witnessed this horrific assault,” it said in a statement. “We offer our deepest sympathies and our hopes that those who were wounded will recover.”

Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, said in a press release that One Blood, an Orlando blood bank, has asked for people to donate O-, O+ and AB blood. A fund is being created to help the families of the victims.

Equality Florida said a vigil is also expected to take place on Monday in Orlando.

“We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country,” said Equality Florida.

“Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history,” it added. “They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.”

Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, an Israeli LGBT advocacy group, is planning to hold a vigil this evening in Jerusalem. Other activist organizations around the world have also expressed their outrage over Sunday’s massacre.

“It is a despicable act, a tragedy unprecedented in the world,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group.

Massacre worst mass shooting in U.S. history

Police said Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Fla., entered the Pulse Nightclub shortly after 2 a.m. and opened fire.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters during an early morning press conference that the gunman had an assault rifle and a handgun “on him.”

He said the gunman also took up to 30 hostages who were rescued by a SWAT team shortly after 5 a.m. Officers killed the gunman after they exchanged gunfire with him.

Sunday’s massacre — which has been described as a domestic act of terrorism — is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The Washington Blade will continue to provide updates from Orlando and elsewhere as they become available.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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