In the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the roster of those politicians expressing sympathy for the victims include GOP officials whose virulent anti-gay sentiments appear similar to the shooter's.
Rights advocates and LGBTQ community members accused such politicians of creating an atmosphere of "trickle-down hatred" that linked them to the shooting, as Kristen Becker wrote for The Advocate on Monday:
Many of this country's lawmakers have spent the last year spending our tax dollars to push anti-LGBTQ legislation through their respective state governments. One after another, laws aimed to de-humanize the LGBTQ community were brought forth under the guise of “religious freedom.” There will be many right-wing Christians who will jump to the front and say, “The shooter was Muslim!”
The man who pulled the trigger might have identified as Muslim, and a perversion of Islam even so, but Christian rhetoric really killed 50 people on Sunday—the fruit of the last two years of conservative vitriol lays on an Orlando dance floor this morning, covered in innocent blood.
Earning cries of "hypocrisy" from many observers, anti-gay politicians expressing sympathy for LGBTQ victims of the massacre included North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who signed the state's anti-transgender "hate bill" into law earlier this spring:
.@PatMcCroryNC Since you feel so much empathy towards LGBTQ people, how about removing legislation that discriminates against them?
— Kelly Hoover (@kellyhoover27) June 12, 2016
As well as former governor of Arkansas and right-wing evangelical Christian Mike Huckabee:
Please join Janet and me in praying for the victims of the Orlando attack and their families.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 12, 2016
— Robin (@caulkthewagon) June 12, 2016
And in Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam earned ire for expressing condolences to the LGBTQ victims of the massacre, mere months after he signed into law a bill that permits therapists to discriminate against gay clients:
@BillHaslam it's good point ppl make: If massacre like this happened in our state, b/c of you, many needing counseling could be denied.
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Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus, who responded to the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage by warning that marriage equality would threaten national security and the economy, also tweeted his sympathy for the victims:
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the tragic Orlando attack and their families
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) June 12, 2016
Other such anti-gay politicians expressing sympathy for the LGBTQ victims of the attack included West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who has voted against legislation that would protect gay people from job discrimination and for a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage; Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who fought to preserve the state's gay marriage ban; and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has raised money for a backer of anti-gay "conversion therapy," opposed gay marriage, and generally battled LGBTQ rights at every turn, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"We have spent decades attempting to let religious homophobes and transphobes evolve, but they're taking too long and we're losing too much."
—Kristen Becker, The Advocate
Rubio even went so far as to specifically blame the shooter's—and ISIS's—explicit hatred toward gay people for the massacre. But only months ago, Rubio announced an anti-LGBTQ "Marriage & Family Advisory Board," comprised of anti-gay activists, to combat the growing rights available to the LGBTQ community nationwide.
Some critics have also pointed out the efforts on the part of some politicians and journalists to gloss over the sexualities of those killed by the shooter in Orlando, thereby ignoring that the massacre was "a homophobic attack on LGBT people," Owen Jones argued in the Guardian.
Trudy Ring, another writer for The Advocate, hypothesized that perhaps all of these expressions of sympathy from anti-gay officials mean that those who haven't been allies "will recognize our common humanity."
"Obviously, it's too early to tell if today’s tragedy will have a long-term effect on conservative rhetoric, and some hard-core anti-LGBT types won’t ever change their beliefs—consider the Westboro Baptist Church, for one. And few, except Westboro types, would fail to express sympathy at such a time," Ring wrote. "But on LGBT equality, more people might move into what activists call the 'movable middle.'"
Becker struck a more defiant chord: "We have spent decades attempting to let religious homophobes and transphobes evolve, but they're taking too long and we're losing too much. I'm sure this will be hard for you to hear, but our existence doesn't need to be sanctioned by you."
Meanwhile, as more names and biographical details emerged for the victims of the massacre, a victim's friend remembered their friendship and their support for each other as they faced anti-gay discrimination. The friend wrote on Facebook, "We were both members of the same church and we both reveled against it, and against the spiritual tyrants that kept condemning us for giving what the world needs the most: love."