CNN's New Day Elevates LGBT Voices In Wake Of Orlando Massacre

LGBT Leaders Explain That Orlando Shooting Is A “Continuation” Of Anti-LGBT Violence In America

From the June 13 edition of CNN's New Day:

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ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): 49 innocent people killed, 53 others injured at that gay nightclub behind us in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The LGBT community hit hard, of course, by this terror attack. Joining us now is the CEO and president of GLAAD Sara Kate Ellis and singer/activist and former congressional candidate Clay Aiken. Thanks to both of you for being here on this terrible morning with us. You know, people see this, whatever was at the root of this hideous crime, in different ways. Some call it Islamic terror, some call it mental illness, some call it homophobia. How do you see it, Clay? 

CLAY AIKEN: I mean, it's a hate crime. No matter what, no matter how you slice it. I mean, I've been inundated over the past few hours with people who've sent me a lot of information about how hateful Islam is against homosexuals, against gays and lesbians and transgender. And I have to remind them that, you know what, this is a homegrown problem too. And we can scapegoat it and blame it on Islam​ just because the person who had the gun happened to be Muslim, but ​​he grew up in America, and he grew up with people, with politicians here, telling him and giving him the example through laws and legislation that it's OK to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. And so this is the problem right here in America, whether it's terrorism from Islam or not. 

​CAMEROTA: This takes it to a new level, I think we'd all agree. I mean, obviously the discrimination that you have felt and that others have felt is one thing, but to go on a massive killing spree, I mean, is just -- obviously, it's unthinkable. 

​SARAH KATE ELLIS: It is, however, we face violence in the LGBT community every single day. And I think, to Clay's point, the legislation -- we've seen over 100 anti-LGBT bills this past year, and that breeds hate and discrimination, and that ends up in violence. And something like that happened on Sunday morning is horrific at every level, and is at a definite new level. But this is continuing. This is a continuation --

​AIKEN: Yeah, it's not an isolated event. I mean, you have Seattle, a gay club was burned down in Seattle just a few years ago. Dallas police are still trying to solve dozens of battered gay men who were beaten with baseball bats as they came out of clubs, and those crimes were just in the last few months. So this is a tragedy, but it highlights a problem that has been ongoing and is not new. 

​CAMEROTA: So what's the feeling of the gay community today? What's the call to action? 

​ELLIS: I think there's two feelings. I think there is absolute sadness. We feel targeted again, and we want to see our politicians, we want to see people standing up for us, not only ourselves. And then there's a galvanization. I mean, the gay community, for decades, has always galvanized around pain and suffering, and we will again. And we will rise to this occasion, and acceptance will prevail, and love will win.

CAMEROTA: And, of course, the paradox is that it is gay pride month. This is a time for revelry and celebrations and parades. Can those happen?

AIKEN: I mean, I think we still have -- we're one year out from a landmark case in the Supreme Court, that gay marriage equality. But there's still a lot of stuff that still has to happen, and pride is about celebrating, but it's also about talking about the progress we still need to make. And I said something yesterday, that gay men who survived this horrible attack can still go to work here in Florida today and have their boss fire them because they're gay. And that happens. And there are 27, 26 states around this country where --

ELLIS: It's a majority.

AIKEN: -- where that's allowed. Employment non-discrimination. There's still a lot of progress to be made. So pride, this year, I think, takes on a heavier tone because of this, but really reinforces how much work there still is to be done. 

CAMEROTA: Look, after horrible events like this, people don't want it to have happened in vain. They sometimes want it to be a catalyst for something. And do you think this is the moment?

ELLIS: I think absolutely. I mean, there have been catalysts. These continue to happen in this country, and we point out instead of in, and I think we need to start pointing in, and looking at the hate and the discrimination that we foster in this country, and we allow to happen in this country.

CAMEROTA: What do you want to happen? What's the first thing you want to have happen tomorrow?

ELLIS: Tomorrow I want the community to continue to come together. I want to hear the politicians from both sides speaking out against this, acknowledging that this was an LGBT incident, that this was against LGBT people. 

AIKEN: I think it's a dishonor to the people who passed from this tragedy to assume that this was not, that they weren't targeted because of their sexual orientation. And I think she's right, that we need to hear politicians speak up and acknowledge that. And we need to start seeing legislation that's sat in Congress since 1994, employment non-discrimination has sat there for almost 30 years now and has not been passed. These are things that we've got to start moving on. 


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