Every June, Pride comes to our cities and towns. We break out the rainbow flags, march in parades, and celebrate our uniqueness and being together. But as Pride Month starts, this year feels different.
Sure, we will still celebrate this remarkable, diverse and loving community, but we are haunted by the wave of senseless violence that has targeted LGBT Americans. We’ll remember the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, where 49 innocent people were killed. We will remember the victims who die every day from gun violence, especially our transgender sisters of color, including Keke Collier, murdered in Chicago; Mesha Caldwell, shot in Mississippi; and Jaquarrius Holland, who was just 18 when her life was cut short by a bullet in Monroe, LA.
This Pride, we will be forced to confront the reality that, because of inaction in Washington, some of our friends won’t be celebrating Pride 2017.
We know that the attack on Pulse Nightclub could have happened anywhere in America. It could have been Providence’s Mirabar or Elixir in Boystown. Gun violence is an LGBT issue and an American issue; preventing this needless loss of life must be a priority for all of us.
The statistics are real and they are shocking. LGBT Americans experienced the greatest number of hate crimes per capita. From 2014-15, the number of LGBT homicides jumped 20 percent. Sixty-two percent of the victims were LGBT people of color and 67 percent were transgender or gender nonconforming individuals. According to the FBI, 20 percent of hate crimes victims were targeted because of their sexual orientation.
As a community, LGBT Americans have always been forced to confront hate. Guns have just made it easier for people to turn their hatred into bloodshed.
Ten days after the Pulse tragedy, we took a stand on the House floor. Emboldened by American communities and with the memories of thousands lost in our hearts, we organized a sit-in to stop gun violence. The first-ever sit-in in the U.S. House had a simple request: allow a vote on two bills that would prevent further bloodshed, including one that would have prevented the Pulse gunman from getting a weapon.
Instead of offering compromise and common sense, Republicans attempted to silence our voices by turning off the cameras and shutting off the microphones. But the LGBT community and advocates across the nation offered up their social media channels to carry our voices.
Nearly a year later, we are still waiting for Republicans to summon the courage to allow a vote on this common sense, bipartisan and widely supported legislation that would help prevent another Pulse. We cannot afford to wait any longer; too many lives have already been lost.
We have no choice but to fight back and PRIDE is the perfect time to start. PRIDE started as a loud protest demanding our rights. This year, let’s make it an even louder protest demanding our right to live!
We literally cannot wait any longer to demand lifesaving action. Community members and tens of thousands of Americans are dying and the crisis is getting worse.
The LGBT community has always stood up and fought for what’s right. We fought for marriage equality, demanded resources to fight HIV/AIDS and defeated hate from the ballot box to our armed forces.
It’s a community that knows how to win. On every issue, the LGBT community and allies give the full measure of our talents, time and treasure. Preventing gun violence can be no different.
The LGBT community learned how to organize and fight through necessity. That need is just as real now.
This time, we aren’t just fighting for the lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters; we are fighting to save the lives of all Americans – in nightclubs, on college campuses, in movie theatres, on our city streets and tragically, at elementary schools.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District; she is a Vice Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Congressman David N. Cicilline represents Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District; he is a co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and a Vice Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.