June 12, 2016 at 10:07 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Orlando shooting denounced as act of hate against all communities

Chad Griffin, Orlando, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin speaks in front of the HRC building surrounded by other civil rights leaders on June 12, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., was an act of hate directed at all minority communities, civil rights advocates said Sunday.

The advocates gathered for a news conference at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in D.C. hours after a gunman killed at least 53 people between 2 am and 5 am at a gay nightclub that day.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the advocates are “heartbroken” for the victims of the shooting dubbed an act of terrorism by President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“What happened early this morning in Orlando has shaken our nation,” Griffin said. “And for LGBT people across the country, this heinous attack is especially close to home. Even though America has made tremendous progress for equality, there are still communities — far too many communities — all across the country where LGBT people don’t feel comfortable, or even safe, living openly as themselves.”

Griffin compared to shooting to the hate crimes committed against Matthew Shepard, a gay college student killed in 1998 in Laramie, Wyo., because of his sexual orientation, a shooting last year at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado and another mass shooting last year at a black church in Charleston, S.C.

Amid a push for gun safety measures in the progressive movement, Griffin drew on the shootings as an example for the need to restrict gun access.

“Let’s not forget that what made this hate so deadly is that is that it’s still far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns in the country,” Griffin said.

Although the perpetuator of the attacks reportedly sworn allegiance to ISIS before committing the act, Griffin said a terrorist group overseas wasn’t the only thing sending him a message that LGBT people deserve harm.

“He was hearing it from politicians and from radical anti-LGBTQ extremists right here in our own country,” Griffin said. “Every time that we see legislation that put a target on the backs of LGBT people, every time we hear a preacher that spews hate from the pulpit, every time a county clerk says that acknowledging our relationship violates her religious beliefs, it sends a signal that LGBT people should be treated differently, and that we are less than.”

The Human Rights Campaign distributed an information sheet at the news conference on hate crimes and laws making penalties against them more steep. The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Protection Act signed by President Obama in 2009 prohibits anti-LGBT hate crimes under federal law. Florida has a law prohibiting hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation, but not transgender status.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the attacks were committed at a nightclub frequented by transgender patrons, but whether any of the victims were transgender remains to be seen.

“This is hate aimed at all of us,” Keisling said. “It is extremism aimed at all of us, and while there’s no direct link between the kind of hate being spewed by politicians, by extremist right-wing groups, by extremists ministers, there can be no mistake that they are raising the heat against us, they are trying to make us and they are going to cause people who aren’t thinking straight to come after us.”

Janet Murguía, CEO of National Council of La Raza, said Orlando’s LGBT and Latino communities were together during the attack because it happened during the nightclub’s weekly Latin night.

“That night of celebration and of unity was shattered by senseless, baseless and inexcusable hatred,” Murguía said. “We must condemn and we must also come together.”

Brenda Abdelall, director of the program to Strengthen Muslim Charities at Muslim Advocates, said Muslims and LGBT people stand in solidarity after the shooting, which was committed by someone seen as an Islamic extremist.

“The LGBTQ community has stood side-by-side with the American Muslim community in challenging in difficult times, and we stand together today against hatred and violence and the demonization of a community,” Abdelall said.

Also speaking at the news conference was Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP; Sharon Lettman-Hicks, CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition; Judith Lichtman, senior advisor for the National Partnership for Women & Families and representative of the Leadership Conference for Civil & Human Rights; Jorge Amaro, media and public relations director of the National LGBTQ Task Force; and Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino.

Griffin ended the news conference without allowing any questions on camera, which he said was for respect for another news conference with LGBT advocates in Orlando scheduled immediately after the one in D.C.

Asked by the Washington Blade after the news conference whether he predicts LGBT movement will become in gun control efforts or defeat of ISIS, Griffin pointed to an HRC event last week on anti-LGBT persecution at the hands of ISIS and said “we all have to ask ourselves” what more can we do on gun safety.

Griffin declined to comment directly on Trump’s call for Obama to resign for not using the term “radical Islam” in the aftermath of the shooting.

“Donald Trump has something ridiculous and outrageous and offensive to say almost on a minute-by-minute basis,” Griffin said. “I think it does no one any good to respond to every of them. He is just beyond a sad situation.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • Really? Trump is asking Obama to resign for not using a word? Well, Trump didn’t want to use the word gay when he reach out to victims in his tweet. Shame on him.

    Gay is not a dirty word and I’m really sick and tired of seeing so much of the GOP ignore us even in tragedy. Those that have mentioned us seem to only be using it to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment to elect Trump. That doesn’t erase his overt anti-GLBT agenda that he has made clear!

    This should be a catalyst to call for an Equality Act in Congress that will send a clear message that GLBT lives matter in America and their rights are worthy of respect and protection under the law! Those that don’t agree need not come here!

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