Elected leaders must acknowledge Orlando gunman targeted LGBT community

From the earliest hours of the tragedy in Orlando, one fact was not in dispute: The worst mass shooting in U.S. history was committed by a killer who targeted LGBT people for murder.

The LGBT community didn’t need to see a manifesto. We didn’t need to wait for the results of a full investigation. We knew – as soon as it happened, because of the fact that Pulse is a gay bar – that the killer had decided to slaughter LGBT people.

We also felt it in our gut because we’ve been targeted for years. The SPLC’s own analysis of FBI data shows that LGBT people are far more likely to be victimized by violent hate crime than any other minority group. Among LGBT people, people of color are the most frequent victims of hate crimes and were the majority of those murdered at Pulse, where each Saturday was Latin Night.

We’re even the targets of hate-inspired legislation.

In the past year alone, conservative lawmakers in 22 states, in collaboration with a range of anti-LGBT groups, have introduced hundreds of anti-LGBT bills. These bills demonize us, portray us as bathroom predators, and accuse us of threatening the civil liberties of others.

We’ve seen candidates on the campaign trail – and even the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party – elevate radical anti-LGBT leaders. In May, Donald Trump appointed Frank Amedia, a man who has said that “AIDS is a disease that comes because of unnatural sex,” to be his “liaison for Christian policy.” Earlier, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz appeared at a rally organized by Kevin Swanson, a pastor who has called for executing gay people.

Both Trump and Cruz sent video speeches for a “Free to Believe” broadcast organized by the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council, whose president has claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem.”

This is harrowing. It’s terrifying. A year after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, we have felt increasingly in peril as the backlash gains momentum and official sanction.

After Orlando, we didn’t expect our elected officials to remain mysteriously silent about the group this killer targeted. We expected some of them to realize that LGBT people might be hurting, that we might need support, and that, quite simply, we exist.

But so many of them have remained silent.

According to one report, not a single congressional Republican who tweeted about the shooting mentioned LGBT people. Here in Alabama, not one member of our congressional delegation has mentioned that the killer selected the community for his rampage. In Florida, where the attack happened, the governor refused to mention the LGBT community by name

I would like to think that some of these silent leaders, upon hearing the news, had a realization that they have been complicit in the demonization of LGBT people, and decided to say nothing.

But many who offered their “thoughts and prayers” know exactly what they are doing. They are trading on political expediency. The demonization of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans pays, politically.

Their silence is damning, regardless of motivation.

We grieve for the lives of the 49 people lost on Sunday. They and all LGBT Americans deserve to be recognized for who we are. We want our leaders – especially those who cynically contribute to the atmosphere of hate – to acknowledge what has happened to us.