Post submitted by former HRC President Chad Griffin
This post originally appeared in Watermark Online
At the stroke of noon on June 12, churches from Ecuador to Michigan will ring their bells 49 times in memory of the lives lost at Pulse Nightclub one year ago. This moment will honor the remarkable people taken that night – and mourn the lives that were tragically cut short.
Luis S. Vielma, 22, worked at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter ride and was set to start Emergency Medical Technician training just weeks after the massacre.
Brenda McCool, 49, beat cancer twice before losing her life as she danced with her son.
Akyra Murphy, 18, a standout student athlete from West Catholic Preparatory High School, had just graduated high school the week before and planned to attend Mercyhurst College on a basketball scholarship.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, had recently begun attending the University of Central Florida and was killed alongside his boyfriend, Christopher Leinonen, 32. The couple had planned to marry.
And there were 44 others — each with a promising but unfulfilled story, and countless people who loved them left behind.
For those of you who were close to the victims, it must feel like just yesterday that you were talking and laughing with the friends, neighbors and family members who were taken that night. And undoubtedly, you will see numerous ceremonies and events marking this anniversary. There will be news reports and memorials that will reopen the psychological wounds you have continued to endure long after the violence of that evening subsided.
But much like a year ago, the world’s attention will soon dissipate, as it always does once the bright lights of media and mayhem dim. And while others more removed from this horrific act will have the luxury of mourning and moving on with their lives, I know that for many of you, this pain will never go away.
That’s why on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, my message to this community is that we are here for you each and every day – not just on this day. We will never forget them and we will never forget you. And we will keep fighting every single day to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
The attack at Pulse demonstrated the deadly cost of hate. This was a massacre of LGBTQ people, most of them Latinx, who would likely be alive today if not for the hatred and bigotry that too many still hold toward our community.
For many years now, LGBTQ people have been the most common victims of hate crimes in the United States – a trend that has, tragically, continued to grow over the past year.
Recently, a same-sex couple was denied entrance to a Cincinnati pizzeria simply because they were holding hands. In New York, a gay couple was hit with a brick and called slurs, solely because of their sexuality. In the first six months of this year, at least 11 transgender people – many of them trans women of color – have been killed. And shockingly, in 2017, in 31 states it is still legal to refuse to serve a customer on the basis on who they are.
After years of progress, our nation is being dragged backward. From rescinding critical guidance to schools regarding their obligation to transgender students to stopping progress on adding LGBTQ people to important data collection surveys, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have cruelly and consistently targeted LGBTQ Americans.
States are turning back the clock as well. In 2016 alone, we saw more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across 34 states. And now, with a clear green light to discriminate from the Trump Administration, anti-LGBTQ activists have proposed a wide range of legislation targeting transgender adults and youth, blocking their access to appropriate restrooms and other public facilities, creating broad religious exemptions that permit individuals and businesses to discriminate, and overriding local LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections offered by municipal governments. The onslaught of these bills, combined with the dangerous rhetoric that lawmakers employ in soliciting support for them, has created a toxic environment for LGBTQ Americans, and given tacit license to the view that we are second-class citizens deserving of harassment, intimidation, and violence.
As Pulse showed us, hateful rhetoric and laws can turn dangerous when coupled with unfettered access to deadly weapons. The safety of LGBTQ people in the United States requires the adoption of common-sense gun safety measures, including limiting access to assault-style rifles, expanding background checks, and limiting the ability for suspected terrorists, and those with a history of domestic abuse to access guns. The LGBTQ community must be consistent and steadfast in our support of these reforms.
That’s why it’s so important that as we approach one year after the tragedy at Pulse, we all commit to #HonorThemWithAction. HRC’s millions of grassroots advocates in cities coast to coast will keep fighting discriminatory laws, bridging divides, and holding elected leaders to account. But we have a long fight ahead of us.
We cannot only come together in the wake of tragedy. Every day, we have to muster the strength to fight with the same pride, courage and unity we saw after the tragedy at Pulse.
So as church bells ring across the nation and the world, we must join hands, mourn the lives we lost that tragic night, and honor them by creating a future where no American will ever be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.