Early Sunday morning a man walked into a gay bar on Latin programming night in Orlando, Florida and massacred 49 mostly latino and mostly LGBT young men and women.
On Sunday evening, the LGBT Center OC and our community partners, organized a vigil and candlelight march to create a space for our community to gather and grieve. Over 200 people came to the vigil including many community leaders, faith leaders and elected officials. Anaheim City Council Member Jordan Brandman, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, former Fullerton Assembly Member Sharon Quirk Silva, and former State Senator Joe Dunn came to show their support and stand with our community, as did Melissa Fox and Farrah Kahn from Irvine. , Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations came to speak and walk with us as did Orange County Human Relations Commissioners Ken Inouye, Becky Esparza and Sean Thomas. Even Lou Correa came and carried a huge rainbow flag, pledging his allegiance to the LGBT community, including transgender rights. While this is an election year and some (not all) of those city leaders are running for office, their presence was a meaningful demonstration of public support in a county that is often hostile toward both the LGBT and Muslim communities. The Santa Ana Police Department and OC Sheriff Department were quick to reach out and provided support for over 200 people to come together and march safely to Sasscer Park and back. And Rigo Maldonado, a teacher from Valley High School, created the most beautiful signs that spelled “ORLANDO UNIDOS” that provided a moving backdrop and visually united our vigil.
How did those more than 200 people, other city and community leaders, NBC, Fox News, the OC Register, and the LA Times learn about the event? Many reached out to us at the LGBT Center OC and asked. They looked on Facebook. They just came, with signs and flags and grieving hearts and hope.
The attack in Orlando was the worst mass shooting in United States history carried out by someone who may have been a self-loathing gay man who pledged his allegiance to ISIS moments before carrying out a massacre of mostly LGBT people of color.
Yet, no elected official from the City of Santa Ana came to the event. No one from the Orange County Board of Supervisors came to the event. Not even candidates. Our State Assembly Member, Tom Daly, did not come to the event nor did he send a representative. While we have had an outpouring of support from other city leaders and Santa Ana law enforcement leaders, no one from the City of Santa Ana has reached out to offer support or suggest some way to honor the victims and their families of this horrific attack, or to help address the grief and fear in our community.
Given that many leaders from the City of Santa Ana have been genuinely supportive of the LGBT community and over the last year, the City has started to engage as a community partner with the LGBT Center OC, it was surprising and disappointing that no one from the City attended the vigil. We need our city’s support at times like this. If we want to prevent the development of hatred, self-loathing, bigotry and violence, our leaders must consistently stand up for and call out homophobia, transphobia, racism and ethnophobia and start showing up and showing love and support for all members of our communities.
Laura W. Kanter, MSW, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Youth Programs, LGBT Center OC
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