Last Friday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) made a significant policy announcement in the aftermath of the hate-fueled attack in Orlando targeting the LGBTQ community at Pulse nightclub’s Latin night.
During a special meeting of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors Thursday evening, the board adopted a resolution recommended by HRC President Chad Griffin that addresses both the epidemic of hate that has fueled anti-LGBTQ-motivated murder, assault and discrimination as well as common-sense gun violence prevention policies that would help keep the LGBTQ community safe. For decades, LGBTQ people have been a target for bias-motivated violence, and easy access to deadly weapons has compounded this threat. The resolution adopted in Thursday’s special meeting establishes HRC’s organizational position that the safety of LGBTQ people in the United States requires the adoption of common-sense gun violence prevention measures, including limiting access to assault-style rifles, expanding background checks, and limiting the ability for suspected terrorists, and those with a history of domestic abuse to access guns.
HRC President Chad Griffin issued the following statement on the resolution: “Forty-nine members of our community were murdered on Sunday morning because of a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate LGBTQ people, and easy access to military-style guns. It is imperative that we address both issues in order to mitigate safety risk to our community.
“As a society, we must hold accountable lawmakers, religious leaders and other public officials who put a target on the backs of LGBTQ people through hateful rhetoric and legislation, because they are complicit in the violence fueled by their words and actions. The safety of the LGBTQ community depends on our ability to end both the hatred toward our community and the epidemic of gun violence that has spiraled out of control.”
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 reporting is not mandatory, and dramatically undercounts the number of hate crimes for all categories, particularly those based on gender identity. A recent investigation by The Associated Press found that more than 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments across the country had not reported a single hate crime to the FBI for the past six years, representing about 17 percent of these law enforcement agencies nationwide.
HRC has observed alarming violence from coast to coast against the backdrop of more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in 34 states in 2016 alone. In the wake of last year’s marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, anti-LGBTQ activists have introduced a wide range of legislation targeting LGBTQ people. These bills have mainly fallen into three categories: bills targeting transgender adults and youth, including blocking their access to appropriate restrooms and other public facilities; bills creating broad “religious” loopholes enabling virtually any individual or organization to discriminate; and bills aimed overriding local LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections offered by municipal governments. The onslaught of these bills, combined with the dangerous rhetoric that lawmakers employ in soliciting support for them, has given license to the view that LGBTQ people are second class citizens deserving of not only discrimination, but harassment, intimidation, and violence.
This wave of anti-LGBTQ state legislation is made possible by a lack of comprehensive federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Last year, HRC helped introduce the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected by our nation’s civil rights laws. Today, only 18 states and just over 100 cities have comprehensive, statewide nondiscrimination protections inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity. While Orlando has established local nondiscrimination protections, Florida does not guarantee statewide protections and LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are.
HRC has occasionally adopted positions on broader policy issues which deeply impact the LGBTQ community, but this is the first time in the organization’s 36-year history that a special session has been called in order to do so. Moving forward, the Human Rights Campaign — which will remain focused achieving full federal equality, ending anti-LGBTQ hate, and ensuring the safety, health, well-being and legal protections of LGBTQ people — will work in coalition with gun safety advocates and other allies in the LGBTQ movement and beyond to realize its goals for stemming the epidemic of gun violence.