It says more needs to be done to strengthen the rights of LGBTQ citizens.
Reaction continues to pour in following the mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida over the weekend. “It’s incredibility difficult to put into the word the level of sadness and frustration and anger that the LGBTQ community is feeling today,” says Patrick Paschall, the Executive Director of Free State Legal and Equality Maryland. “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families and to LGBTQ people everywhere across our state and our nation and our world.”
But Paschal says the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community is not a stranger to violence. “We’ve had two transgender women of color murdered in our state in the last eight months just for being transgender women of color,” he says. “So the LGBTQ community has experienced violence over the history of our country. And violence against the LGBTQ community is not a new phenomenon.”
In addition, Paschal says a lot of this violence is being promoted by politicians and their heated rhetoric. “We have a political climate in this country that has made it acceptable for politicians to target transgender students in schools, to disallow them from using a restroom,” he says.
Last weekend at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Omar Mateen entered the business, and used a AR 15 rifle to shoot 49 people. He was fatally shot by police who entered the club. It’s considered to be the worst mass shooting in the United States.
Even though the investigation into this incident is continuing, Paschal says it was a hate crime. “He specifically chose his location, reports say, because he saw two men kissing and was offended by it. There’s no question that this was a hate crime,” Paschal says.
In recent years, Paschal says progress has been made when it comes to LGBTQ citizens’ rights being protected. Marriage equality is legal in Maryland, and other states have passed laws outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ citizens. But more needs to be done, he says. “We need LGBTQ to actually live equality rather than having legal authority on the books. And that means enforcing the law. That means making sure that potential discriminators are on notice that the laws will be enforced against them if they discriminate against LGBTQ people,” he says.