Congress must act to protect LGBTQ people against gun violence

Two weeks ago, 49 lives, 49 LGBTQ lives, mostly Latino were taken. They were taken in a place those of us in the LGBTQ Latino community thought were safe. Safe from the homophobia, racism, hate and violence so rampant in our country today. I have been to the Pulse nightclub. For many of us, it’s where we went to feel connected to community, to dance, to live, and to love. Bars and nightclubs have been areas of respite for the LGBTQ community — spaces where finally we could be exactly who we are without fear.

All that was shattered in the early hours of a Sunday morning by a man with a gun.

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As LGBTQ people we are no strangers to being the targets of violence. Unfortunately it has been our history. Every LGBTQ person knows our safety is never guaranteed, especially LGBTQ people of color. We know when we reach to hold our partners hand, kiss them or to just be ourselves we are at risk of being called a homophobic slur, of being beaten up, of being murdered. Hate violence has risen sharply in recent years, with a 20% increase in reported LGBTQ homicides in the U.S. between 2014 and 2015, according to a study released last week by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). Of the homicides reported last year, 62% were LGBTQ people of color. Since January of this year, 14 transgender people have been murdered across the country for simply being who they are. The number of anti-transgender hate crimes are rising each year with no end in sight. 

The Republican-led Congress’ failure to take any action tells the LGBTQ community that our lives are disposable. That in the face of the largest mass shooting in modern American history we don't matter, we are an inconvenient afterthought. That despite the gains we've made in the last several years, we are still second-class citizens. After all, this is the very same Senate that refuses to enact non-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ people in employment, housing, education and public accommodations and refuses to take up comprehensive immigration reform. Instead some members of the Senate have taken this tragedy and attempted to legitimize the banning of Muslims from entering the U.S., the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and separation of immigrant families. Saying, as one senator did, that a test for entering this country will be, “do you murder gays?” If the test of being an ally to LGBTQ people is whether or not you believe we should be murdered then we want other allies. You dishonor our dead by using them to score political points and to scapegoat entire groups of people like Muslims, immigrants, and Latinos. LGBTQ people are Muslims, immigrants and Latinos. And Muslims aren't the only community that is being demonized en masse. People living with mental health disabilities are also part of this appalling blame game. 

There is something very wrong with the world of politics when guns are clearly valued more highly than lives. We can't allow politicians to get away with this outrageous lack of morality and humanity. Now is the time for Congress to protect all against gun violence by passing strong gun control legislation.

We are still mourning, we are still hurting, and our thoughts are with the friends, family and entire community of the victims and survivors of the Orlando mass shooting. But the Senate’s inaction on Monday has turned our grief into anger. The LGBTQ community is well organized and is ready to flex its political muscle so that no LGBTQ person or our allies have to live in fear.


Russell Roybal is the deputy executive director at the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.