In Wake Of Orlando Shooting, Not All Condolences Are Welcome

Jun 17, 2016

A rainbow flag with candles during a vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting at a gay club.
Credit LHatter / WFSU News

The mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub shooting has garnered an outpouring of support from around the county and the world. But not every condolence has been welcomed.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper interviewed Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in Orlando after the shooting. But as Bondi expressed support for the victims, Cooper pressed her on defending the state’s now-overturned, gay marriage ban.

The shooting, and the response of some conservatives, has struck a chord with many LGBT people, who are asking the question: How can those who have opposed us, now say they support us?

“Well, I hope their comments are genuine, and I’m sure they feel sadness for all Americans," says Rep. David Richardson , D-Miami. He's reacting to a statement issued after the shooting from the social conservative organization, the Florida Family Policy Council. The group lobbies for traditional marriage, opposes gay adoption and is anti-abortion.

“It doesn’t help when they go to Tallahassee and spew hatred and rhetoric that is harmful to our community. I really wish we could get to a place where everyone can get along and respect the rights of everybody.”

Council President John Stemberger spoke to the Christian Network, Moody Radio. “The fact that this is a gay bar, it makes no difference. We’re all sexually broken at some level. These are human being that were innocent, and had their lives taken," he says in the interview.

Stemberger's office is near the Pulse nightclub, which was attacked early Sunday morning. But his words of support drew  a backlash on social media, mainly for his and his council’s anti-LGBT policy agenda. Stemberger explains what he means by the words, "sexually broken."

“There’s nobody, Christian or non-Christian who doesn’t have issues," he says. "We’re all broken and live in a fallen world…I don’t think it’s a time for self-righteous, the way I view this is, had it not been for the Grace of God, I would have been in the nightclub, I would have been on the other side of this debate.”

That doesn't fly with some LGBT Floridians.

“What I will say on that, is, if you love me, then really love me. Show it with your actions, not just your words," says Tallahassee LGBT activist Susan Gage. “Certain individuals in government, want to talk about how they love us. But their actions don’t match their words. And we’re tired of that. If you really love us, pass the laws that will protect us.”

What she’s talking about, are bills to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in areas like work and housing. Those measures have failed—at both the state and federal level. And that’s what it boils down to: showing love. And Sometimes actions speak louder than words.