Was Orlando an Islamic terrorist attack, or was it an anti-gay hate crime? Since it can obviously be (and arguably is) both, let me rephrase the question slightly: Was Orlando primarily an Islamic terrorist attack, or was it primarily an anti-gay hate crime? I ask because I’m seeing an enormous amount of disagreement on this point, and that disagreement that matters, because it runs along ideological (and party) lines—and because it significantly affects our response to the tragedy.
Florida Governor Rick Scott avoided any mention of the LGBT community or the significance of the location of Sunday’s horrific shooting in his address later that day. And it wasn’t just in his address that he avoided any mention of the sexual orientation of the victims or the clientele of the venue. Here, instead, is how he has framed the shooting:
“This is clearly an act of terror that happened in Orlando this morning. It sickens me and makes me angry. Of course, this is a time of great tragedy, and in every tragedy, there is a flood of sadness, confusion and despair. But, this is an attack on our people. An attack on Orlando. An attack on Florida. An attack on America. An attack on all of us.”
And he isn’t the only one. Politicians, television personalities, and religious leaders across the country have described the shooting as a terrorist attack, placing the blame squarely on radical Islam and calling for increasing our efforts to fight ISIS. Donald Trump responded to the tragedy by broadening his ban on Muslim immigration to include all individuals from countries linked to terror.
I have a question. Just one wee little question. Has Trump considered that his ban would also bar U.S. entry LGBT people living in the countries on his list, Muslim or not? Probably not, but then I’m not sure he or other Republican politicians are fully aware that the attack on Sunday was an attack on the LGBT community. Instead, they’ve positioned the tragedy as an Islamic terrorist attack and an Islamic terrorist attack alone. The idea that their efforts to curtail LGBT rights might be at all related to what happened on Sunday? Nope.
This leads me to the vigil I attended earlier this week, one of many candlelight vigils across the country held to remember the dead. At that vigil, the attack was positioned not as an act of terror but rather as a hate crime against the LGBT community. The speakers didn’t talk about radical Islam or about curtailing Muslim immigration. Instead, they talked about refusing to let bigotry win, in any form. They talked about coming together, mourning together, and moving forward together. The dance, they said, must not end.
The LGBT community is sadly accustomed to being under threat, generally from the very Republicans currently using this moment as an opportunity to engage in xenophobia against Muslims. From the perspective of the LGBT and allied community, this tragedy is another in a long string of attacks by bigots