One year after celebrating the most joyous pride month in US history with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in this country, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the nation as a whole are now in mourning. As of this writing, at least 50 people are dead and 53 were injured when a madman unleashed hell inside a gay nightclub in the wee hours of Sunday, June 12.
This is by far the worst mass shooting in American history.
Law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen who lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was killed in a shootout with police inside the Pulse nightclub. In explaining a possible motive, Mateen's father told media that his son became "very angry" after seeing two men kiss in downtown Miami a few months ago. Authorities are calling this an act of terrorism.
The nation has been through this so many times in the last decade that we might as well lower our flags to half-mast on a permanent basis. We were horrified by the slaughter of 27 children and adults at a school in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. We were aghast at the murder of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. The body count in Orlando bumps those two mass shootings way down on this country's grizzly and growing tally.
June is LGBT pride month. Parades, festivals and commemorations of the struggles past and present take place all over the country in communities big and small. And it is celebrated at the pinnacle of power. Last Thursday, President Barack Obama feted 300 guests for his last Pride month at the White House. Yesterday, was there were pride parades in Boston and in Washington, D.C. The last Sunday in June is the traditional date for the parade in New York City.
Today, LGBT people from all over the country will watch performers and listen to speeches at the annual Capital Pride Festival here in Washington. Because it takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue, the dome of the U.S. Capitol is a majestic presence in the background. You cannot underestimate the power of being an LGBT person at that festival with one of the most potent symbols of your nation looming so large. Only the White House lit up in the gay pride rainbow colors last year eclipsed it in its power.
What happened in Orlando is a tragedy for Orlando, for Florida and for the nation. It will reignite the gun debate, for sure. Yet, it is a devastating blow to the LGBT community in America. Whether or not it turns out that the massacre at Pulse was solely motivated by anti-LGBT animus, gay people around the country will feel especially vulnerable during this Pride Month. One thing is clear, with the shocking toll killers with guns are racking up, we all must take care.