In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox attended a vigil for the victims and gave a speech, which soon went viral, in which he apologized for his past homophobic behavior and thanked the LGBTQ community for being patient with him while he evolved. He later said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:
"I think it's pretty sad that a speech by a Lieutenant Governor in Utah is getting this much attention just by saying we should love each other. How low is the bar in our country?"
On that much we can all agree. But will Cox now find the courage to speak out against his own administration's lawsuit over Obama's directive to states to allow transgender people to use the restroom that matches their gender identity? Will he explain to Gov. Herbert that the "bathroom bill" in North Carolina demonizes and discriminates against trans people and puts them at risk for violence from cisgender transphobic people who want to harm them? Will he recognize that discriminatory policies demonizing the LGBTQ community are what led to the atrocity in Orlando that took 49 lives and injured dozens more?
Because, here's the thing. We've seen a lot of statements and sympathy tweets from lawmakers offering their "thoughts and prayers" to the families of the victims. But most ignore the fact that the shooting was a hate crime against the LGBTQ community. Instead, they use it as an excuse for more xenophobia, more violence, more hatred.
The massacre in Orlando wasn't an ISIS attack. It wasn't a "radical Islamic terrorist" attack on the American way of life. It was a targeted hate crime against largely black and Latinx LGBTQ people by a violent, mentally unstable American man from Queens with a history of domestic abuse and an assault weapon he should never have been able to purchase.
"We have seen no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network. There is confusion about his motives," said FBI Director James Comey.
Indeed, there is now some strong evidence to support that the shooter was, in addition to being a mentally unbalanced wife-beater, a closeted gay man who took out a lifetime of self-loathing on a club full of innocents.
The thing we need to get straight is that when politicians fail to support equality and instead pass discriminatory legislation or when they refuse to speak out against that discrimination, they are helping to foster the climate in which LGBTQ people are feared, scorned, hated and, ultimately, targeted. And then, when we are tragically reaping what they've sown, they offer their empty thoughts and prayers like so many crocodile tears.
It's time we say: enough.
You cannot, as Rep. Trent Franks did, call marriage equality a threat to the nation's survival and then tweet that your "thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families, and first responders in the #Orlando attack."
You cannot, as Sen. Ted Cruz did, call LGBTQ rights leaders "jihadists" out to destroy the Christian way of life, and then tweet this: "Our hearts go out to those killed and wounded last night. Our prayers are with their families, and with all their grieving loved ones."
You cannot, as Sen. Rand Paul did, compare same-sex marriage to bestiality and then tweet that your "thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."
You cannot, as Gov. Mike Huckabee did, deny the existence of racism in this country and call marriage equality proponents nazis and then ask people to join you "in praying for the victims of the Orlando attack and their families."
You cannot, as Congressman Steve Russell did, personally sponsor the bill allowing federal contractors to discrimination against LGBTQ people and then tweet this: "There is simply no civilized explanation for the horrific terror act in Orlando, Florida."
You cannot, as Michelle Bachmann did, post a photo of the Orlando skyline with the hashtag "#PrayForOrlando" after you've called for Christians to engage in "spiritual warfare" to combat same-sex marriage and compared LGBTQ people to Satan.
You cannot, as Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi did, sign a law that allows businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people and then ask everyone to join you in "praying for God's peace and comfort for those affected by the horrific act of terror in Orlando.
You cannot as Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina did, sign into law the "bathroom bill," criminalizing transgender individuals who use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity, and then tweet this: "Orlando shooting was a tragedy & should never take place in our country. Those who died were innocent victims of an inexcusable act."
You cannot, as Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah did, support that discriminatory "bathroom bill" by suing for the right to discriminate against trans people and then issue a statement saying "our hearts are broken" and "we all stand united in support of our brothers and sisters in Orlando."
No more broken hearts. No more prayers for peace and comfort. No more pseudo-solidarity.
If you do not advocate for full equality for LGBTQ people, you are the problem.
"But wait," you say, "I never advocated for murder or violence. I would never, ever support that."
Dear weeping politicians, it is long past time for you to connect these dots. You cannot, in one moment, marginalize, demonize and cast as "other" a particular group, and then in the next moment, lament the fact that that group is being targeted for a hate crime. If you advocate for inequality--whether because of your religious beliefs, your cultural beliefs, your political aspirations, etc.--you are helping to create a culture that made LGBTQ people an easy mark for a lunatic homophobe with an assault weapon, regardless of whether his homophobia was internalized or externalized.
By failing to speak up against discrimination and hate, you have made the world unsafe for LGBTQ people, fueling their own self-loathing and inciting homophobic rage in others. You are the reason hate crimes against LGBTQ people were up in 2015, and particularly against people of color, transgender people and those who are gender-nonconforming. You are the reason LGBTQ teens are the daily targets of harassment, bullying and violence in schools. And you are the reason they too often choose suicide over the pain of living as a human target.
You. Are. The. Problem.
If you really want to stand in solidarity with the victims, their families and our community a whole, stop vilifying our community by calling us pedophiles and predators. Stop telling people to hate the sin. Stop warning straight people we are out to destroy their marriages, their families and the American way of life.
If you want to pay your respects for the LGBTQ people of color who were slaughtered in Orlando, first try tweeting these words: "This was a hate crime against LGBTQ people of color."
Then start voting for equal rights for LGBTQ people.
Ask your supporters to respect all people equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Actively and vocally discourage anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment and violence.
State unequivocally that #BlackLivesMatter.
If you really want to make sure this doesn't happen again, you must finally recognize the link between a cultural climate that demonizes LGBTQ people and the attacks against them that inevitably follow.
If you can't do that, please, have some respect for the fallen and say nothing at all.