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The news this morning about the mass murder at Pulse Orlando, a large Florida LGBT dance club, is heartbreaking. As of this writing, law enforcement in Orlando is reporting at least 50 dead with more than 50 wounded. The lone gunman, who is suspected of having ties to Middle Eastern terror groups, was killed by police.
The horrible numbers increase with every new briefing. “Heartbreaking” doesn’t begin to describe this tragedy.
We have seen an increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes over the past few years. Transgender Americans are being murdered at an appalling rate. LGBT activists in Kansas have gotten death threats. The local MCC church in Wichita has been repeatedly vandalized.
Beyond our LGBT community, ideological threats and acts of violence against others have become both regular and frightening. Targeting of women’s health care providers in Kansas have been increasing. We have seen violence against doctors and clinic workers, such as last year’s mass murder at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. In 2014, a white supremacist murdered three people in Johnson County in an anti-Jewish rampage.
I believe many of these crimes against humanity have been provoked by the inflammatory rhetoric of conservative extremists. Here in Kansas, religious leaders and elected officials regularly disparage LGBT Kansans. Just last week, on the final day of the Kansas Legislature’s 2016 session, Senators referred to our transgender brothers and sisters with vile insults about their mental health, high suicide rates, and use of bathrooms.
Our community has had some big victories over the past few years. Lesbian and gay Americans can now serve openly in the US armed forces. Policies that will permit open service by transgender Americans are being developed. Marriage equality is here for everyone. Nearly every state has school bullying prevention laws, and many schools include protections for students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. States and cities across our nation have adopted fully inclusive non-discrimination policies.
As our inclusion in everyday society continues to grow, the extremists will continue to lash out. Some will lash with words. Others will resort to violence.
Even with the victories we’ve had, it is clear we must continue our work. Today, however, I ask you to stand with our extended family in Florida. I have made a personal contribution to the LGBT Community Center of Central Orlando (https://www.facebook.com/thecenterorlando), and I ask that you all do the same. They will know best the needs of their community in this terrible time, and I am confident our contributions will be put to the best use possible.
Our thoughts today are in Orlando, with the victims and their families.
Thomas Witt, Executive Director
800 N. Market St | Wichita, KS 67214
Our mission is to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity