Orlando Massacre Sparks New Push for LGBT Rights in Florida

Millions of spectators lined the streets of Manhattan to view the 46th Annual Heritage of Pride March in New York City on June 26, 2016. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA via AP)

Christian Ulvert, a Democratic political consultant and LGBT-rights advocate, told the Miami Herald he believes it is a travesty that even though a gay couple can be married on a Saturday, they can be fired from their jobs because they are gay on Monday.

Ulvert also said the mass shootings inside the Pulse nightclub that killed 49 people, many of whom identified as gay or lesbian, could increase the motivation of those on his side of the job discrimination debate.

“What happened in Orlando, it’s a punch to the gut, and it’s a wake-up call. The victories we’ve had are important,” Ulvert said. “But there is still vitriol and hate, and you see it on social media. Marriage equality was but one victory in a long fight.”

Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger is afraid the LGBT activists like Ulvert are going to use the shooting to “to try and get Christians to stop proclaiming God’s design for marriage, gender, and human sexuality. And they are not playing fair.”

“We need more American flags, not rainbow flags,” Stemberger added.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Sen. Marco Rubio all took criticism from gay-rights advocates, and in Bondi’s case CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, for their opposition to LGBT equality, even though they had expressed their sympathy for the victims and survivors of the massacre inside Pulse.

To Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D), that seemed like the height of hypocrisy.

“If one more Republican tells me they have gay friends, I’m gonna scream,” Maloney, an openly gay member of Congress, told the New York Times. “I don’t care that they have gay friends. I care that they’re voting against equality.”

Carlos Guillermo Smith, the lobbyist for Equality Florida, who is also a candidate for the Florida House, told MSNBC it is time for Scott and Bondi to take action to protect the LGBT community without waiting for the Florida Legislature to act.

“Gov. Rick Scott and Pam Bondi could issue an executive order today with the stroke of a simple pen that would forbid and make illegal anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our state,” said Smith.

The next day, Scott told reporters he was not focused on legislation, which failed to win approval this year, that would have expanded Florida’s civil rights protections.

“Right now what I want to focus on is how do we make sure that we love everybody impacted: the gay community, the Hispanic community,” Scott said. “But let’s all remember this was an attack on our entire nation.”

Kylie Mason, the spokeswoman for the Florida Attorney General’s Office, told the Bradenton Herald  that Bondi does not have the power to issue an executive order.

“However, our office already has a policy in place against discrimination based on sexual preference,” Mason said.

Stemberger issued a statement the Sunday after the Pulse shootings: “This is an unspeakable tragedy, and we should take extended time to mourn, to pray for the families of those murdered and injured, and to consider the depth of evil in the hearts of men that this senseless act represents. Finally, we should also pray for and support law enforcement as they investigate and bring to justice all persons involved.”

The response from the LGBT community, Stemberger said, was to “mock and openly attack” him on Twitter and Facebook:

“I will work against you and your hate”

“Your beliefs and words aid society in seeing LGBTQ people as ‘less than human’ which justifies killings like this.”

“Shame on Mr Stemberger! Shame on all … who follow this hate monger!”

“Just checked out your page- you ARE a hate group”

“Get out of my city!”

“Christians should be prepared to be attacked and persecuted if they do not bow down and pledge allegiance to the gay pride flag and all it supposedly represents,” Stemberger wrote in response.

Stemberger vehemently disagrees with people like Beth Littrell.

She’s an attorney with the Lambda Legal gay rights organization, which blames religious freedom advocates for spewing “anti-LGBT rhetoric…that lead to tragedies.”

Littrell told Reuters that people “who have relied on the law to keep minorities in their place no longer have the law to treat them unequally, and if the law can’t discriminate, sometimes people take it into their own hands to enforce discrimination.”

Stemberger is warning members of the Florida Family Policy Council to expect more of that sentiment in the future.

“We need to be prepared for the stunning and false narrative of the Left, which is that all major world religions,” Stemberger wrote, “including but especially Christianity, breed hatred and create a hostile environment which ‘causes’ the kind of violence we saw in Orlando.”