June 21, 2016 at 4:12 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
John Kerry: Pulse nightclub massacre was ‘hate crime’

John Kerry, GLIFAA, gay news, Washington Blade

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at GLIFAA’s annual Pride event at the State Department on June 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday described the Pulse nightclub massacre as “a hate crime.”

“The memory of those who were lost will, above all, live on in the minds and the hearts of their loved ones long after the killer’s name is most likely forgotten,” said Kerry during the State Department’s annual Pride event.

Kerry evoked Stuart Milk, a gay nephew of Harvey Milk who is president of the Harvey Milk Foundation.

“These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, their dreams stolen, their future potential contributions stolen from us all in an abhorrent act that is a scar on some of our nation’s policies and certainly on our hopes and dreams,” said Kerry.

The Pride event took place nine days after a gunman killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others when he opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The gunman pledged his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in a 911 call he made from inside the gay nightclub, even though there is no evidence to suggest the Sunni militant group prompted him to carry out the attack. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the Washington Blade last week that the global response to the Pulse nightclub massacre is a direct challenge to the so-called Islamic State and those “who foster hate and division” in the U.S. and around the world.

“No words can lift or enable us to get rid of this sense of tragedy, but I do think that our gathering today can help everyone to feel less alone,” said Kerry. “It helps to know that acts of terror and hate rarely achieve their purpose beyond the immediate horror that they generate. And whether those actions stem from bigotry, insecurity, fear, or weakness, they are profoundly misguided — because they prompt people of good will to close ranks in opposition to the very viciousness and bile that the killers hope to spread.”

Gay Army Secretary Eric Fanning noted after Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry introduced him that two servicemembers — former Army Spc. Angel Candelario-Padro and Capt. Tony Brown of the Army Reserve — were among those who died inside the Pulse nightclub.

“Like so many families in Orlando and across the country, our Army family was deeply hurt and saddened by such tragic, senseless loss of life,” said Fanning.

Fanning also noted that former Marine Imran Yousuf, who was a bouncer at the Pulse nightclub, is credited with saving at least 70 people during the massacre.

Kerry, GLIFAA pay tribute to murdered Bangladeshi activist

The Pride event also took place less than two months after members of the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida hacked Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent activist who founded the country’s first LGBT magazine, and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, a friend and fellow advocate, to death.

Mannan worked for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, for eight years before joining the U.S. Agency for International Development in September 2015.

“Xulhaz was brutally murdered for being gay and for founding a magazine showing pride in that identity,” said Kerry.

Kerry in his speech noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries around the world. He also highlighted the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world that the State Department manages with USAID.

“The fight is not yet won, but we should never, ever forget the distance we have traveled,” said Kerry.

Walter Slocombe, secretary of the Atlantic Council’s board of directors, made a similar point, while noting the Pulse nightclub massacre and “all the many continuing abuses of LGBTI people around the world show how interconnected our community has become and remind us to mourn those who lost and suffered along the way and to demonstrate why for all the real progress there is a lot of unfinished business left.” GLIFAA President Regina Jun added the Orlando shooting and Mannan’s murder “have reminded us that serious challenges still exist for the LGBTI community.”

“However, everyday, people work to overcome these challenges,” said Jun.

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

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