June 14, 2016 – For Talk 1300
United as one, the LGBT community of the Capital Region and supporters came together today for a candlelit vigil to honor the victims and survivors of Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The vigil in West Capitol Park outside the state Capitol was one of many held across the Capital Region and the nation. The speakers, and the many of the hundreds in attendance, recognized the strides toward equality and acceptance the LGBT community has made over the years, but acknowledged Sunday’s shooting brought home the unfathomable degree of hate that still exists.
“We are not afraid. We’re not deterred, we are not distracted,” said In Our Own Voices Board of Directors chairman, Dr. Robert Miller. “We stand sure-footed and determined to despair fear and to evidence love and compassion in every one of our actions.”
Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community in Albany held flags and signs such as “Enough is enough” and “Pride not fear” behind the speakers during the vigil.
Early Sunday morning, police shot and killed gunman Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida after he opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Mateen was armed with an assault rifle and a pistol. This marked the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, resulting in 50 deaths and leaving 53 injured.
The father of Mateen, Mir Seddique, told NBC News his son had gotten angry after seeing two men kissing in front of his wife and child.
Miller was one of many speakers at the vigil, others included The Pride Center of the Capital Region Executive Director Michael Weidrich, Albany Councilmen Judd Krasher, D-11th Ward, and Richard Conti, D-6th Ward and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan.
“To those that thought this act was going to divide us … man, have we proved them wrong and that is a beautiful thing,” said Krasher, who along with Conti is openly gay. “To those that want to use this event to divide us, you are wrong it has done the exact opposite. Out of this tragedy we will become more united and stronger than ever before.”
Glick, the first openly gay member of the state Legislature, recounted the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting of 2012, saying if changes to gun control laws were not made after the murder of first graders, then the latest mass shooting will not result in change either.
Instead, Assemblywoman Glick, of Manhattan, advocated for changes to be made to those in charge of legislation. “We should come together to fight to make sure if we can’t change the hearts and minds, we must change the people who are in a position to allow people to have assault weapons that are murdering Americans all over this country every single week,” she said to a loud applause.
Glick also wanted to empower the audience, saying we have come a long way in LGBT equality but we still have a long way to go.
“We are here to send a message of solidarity with the families and friends of those were lost or those who are still injured, who we pray for their recovery,” said Glick, “We are here to send a message that we will not be chased back into the closet ever again.”
To honor those who lost their lives or were injured, the audience lit candles and stood for 50 seconds of silence to remember each of the 50 victims at the gay nightclub.
Following the silence, the microphone was open to audience members to share their own thoughts and feelings. One man, JJ, spoke about sharing his birthday with the day of the massacre, how he and his husband feel thankful because the shooting could have happened anywhere, while sharing sorrows for those who won’t see another birthday.
The mass shooting followed celebrations of LGBT communities around the country for June’s Pride Month, including one in Albany. The Pride Center of the Capital District held their annual Pride Parade and Festival in Washington Park on Saturday, just one day before the Orlando shooting.
Miller reminded the audience that now is the time to stick together as a LGBT community.
“We as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people are the fulfillment of what it means to live in our inherent dignity and having the capacity to pursue our own self-worth, and nobody can take that from us,” he said.