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LGBT rights groups respond to mass shooting, killer identified

Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT civil rights group, issued a statement following the mass shooting early June 12 at the Pulse, a gay dance club in Orlando.

The shooting occurred just days after the conclusion of the area's Gay Days LGBT Pride celebration. Authorities identified the killer as 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida.

Equality Florida, in its statement, said, "We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse….

"We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.

"Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.

"We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy."

Also early June 12, Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, issued this statement, "We are deeply shocked by this appalling act of violence against the LGBTQ community and our friends. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones and with the injured. While the motive behind this crime remains unclear, our resolve to live openly and proudly remains undiminished. Now is a time for the whole nation to stand together against violence."

At about 10:30 a.m. on June 12, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights group, issued a statement on the mass shooting and on hate crimes in America.

HRC president Chad Griffin said, “We are grieving for the victims and our hearts are broken for their friends, families, and for the entire community. This tragedy has occurred as our community celebrates pride, and now more than ever we must come together as a nation to affirm that love conquers hate.”

He continued, “We are grateful that President Obama has directed the FBI and other federal agencies to support the investigation of this attack and the LGBTQ community during this time.”

HRC said while the shooting in Florida had not yet been labeled a hate crime, more than 20 percent of hate crimes reported nationally in 2014 targeted people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the most recent FBI statistics available.

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation currently account for 22 percent of all hate crimes in Florida, according to a report by Equality Florida, trailing only race as the most common motivation.

As a percentage of the state population, LGBTQ Floridians are at the highest risk of being targeted with a hate crime. Florida law provides increased penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

A response from GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis: “Our hearts are broken for the victims and families of the horrific tragedy in Orlando. This unimaginable atrocity has not only robbed countless people of their loved ones, it has also stolen a sense of safety within the LGBTQ community. As we mourn the victims of this unspeakable attack, we are also reminded that the work to end hate in all its forms must continue.”

From Lambda Legal acting executive director Fran Goldstein: "Lambda Legal joins the people around the country in expressing our sorrow and outrage at the terrible and deadly attack on patrons at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. Our first thoughts, as they must be, are with the loved ones of those who were killed and with those who were injured or who witnessed this horrific assault. We offer our deepest sympathies and our hopes that those who were wounded will recover.

"Though little is known at this hour about the attacker, the police have characterized this as an act of domestic terrorism and news reports indicate that it was a hate crime. It occurred during LGBT Pride Month, only days after 150,000 people participated in a pride celebration in Orlando.

"As an organization that fights every day for justice for LGBT people and people living with HIV, we also raise our voice this morning to say, 'No more hatred and violence against our community!' We will continue to stand up for the dignity and equality of every member of the communities we represent - to demand fair and effective responses from police and the criminal justice systems; to fight for laws that prohibit discrimination, not encourage or require it; and to expect public officials and leaders across the country to unite us in justice."

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