By Lorenzo Castro E.
Miami, Jun 10 (EFE).- The hatred that motivated the mass shooting five years ago at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, also had unintended positive effects, serving to promote a deep sense of community in that city and bringing more visibility to the LGBTQ population and, in particular, its marginalized Hispanic members.
A packed crowd of gays, lesbians and trans people, the vast majority of them Hispanic, were enjoying a “Latin Night” at that Central Florida establishment on June 12, 2016, when a lone gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others in what was the second-deadliest mass shooting in the recent history of the United States.
George Wallace, executive director of the Orlando United Assistance Center, founded months after the mass shooting to provide assistance to survivors and victims’ family members, said the massacre was the darkest moment in the city’s history yet at the same time showcased the community’s resilience.
Like other heads of local organizations, Wallace sees the tragedy as having triggered a wave of support and solidarity for advocacy groups that even in a diverse city like Orlando had previously been left out of government policy and excluded from decision-making roles.
“What it did was show that the Hispanic community of the LGBTQ collective was not in a position of relevance,” said Marco Antonio Quiroga, executive director of the Contigo Fund, an organization founded after the mass shooting that identifies and supports grassroots efforts that advance Latinx and LGBTQ causes and the intersection of these two communities.
He added that now it is more common to see LGBTQ Hispanics or African-Americans take on leadership roles and sit on the boards of directors of public-sector and charitable organizations.
Progress also has been made in terms of the attitudes of religious leaders toward the LGBTQ community.
This week, hundreds of faith leaders from across Florida issued a public statement in which they called on state lawmakers to honor the 49 lives lost at the Pulse nightclub by passing more legislation to protect LGBTQ individuals.
Among other things, those leaders urged the passage of “legislation (that) would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee simply based on that person’s sexual orientation.”
They also stated that Florida “must update its exiting anti-discrimination laws to include LGBTQ people and avoid passing laws that would harm Floridians by allowing religion to be used as a weapon to discriminate.”
Those sentiments contrast sharply with the attitudes of some leaders of Christian congregations who said in the wake of the mass shooting that the victims had deserved their fate.
“My faith was really, really tested in the aftermath, because as we know, there were a lot of pastors that said that this was something that deserved to happen to us, that this was something that was compared to Sodom and Gomorrah,” Pulse survivor Angelica Sanchez said earlier this week at a gathering of city and faith leaders titled “An Evening of Reflection and Promise.”
Among the activities to commemorate the 2016 mass shooting, the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando has organized an exhibit titled “Community: Five Years After the Pulse Tragedy.”
That multimedia exhibit, which will run through Aug. 15 and can be visited free-of-charge through Sunday, will narrate the story of the Pulse nightclub and its devastating tragedy, celebrating the spirit of community that emerged, honoring the 49 victims and all those affected and examining “how communities of all kinds were touched both locally and across the globe.” EFE