Yesterday, HRC made a significant policy announcement in the aftermath of last Sunday’s hate-fuelled attack in Orlando targeting the LGBTQ community at Pulse nightclub’s Latin night.
During a special meeting of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors Thursday evening, the board adopted a resolution recommended by HRC President Chad Griffin that addresses both the epidemic of hate that has fuelled anti-LGBTQ-motivated murder, assault and discrimination as well as common-sense gun violence prevention policies that would help keep the LGBTQ community safe. For decades, LGBTQ people have been a target for bias-motivated violence, and easy access to deadly weapons has compounded this threat. The resolution adopted in Thursday’s special meeting establishes HRC’s organisational position that the safety of LGBTQ people in the United States requires the adoption of common-sense gun violence prevention measures, including limiting access to assault-style rifles, expanding background checks, and limiting the ability for suspected terrorists, and those with a history of domestic abuse to access guns.
HRC President Chad Griffin issued the following statement on the resolution: “Forty-nine members of our community were murdered on Sunday morning because of a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate LGBTQ people, and easy access to military-style guns. It is imperative that we address both issues in order to mitigate safety risk to our community. As a society, we must hold accountable lawmakers, religious leaders and other public officials who put a target on the backs of LGBTQ people through hateful rhetoric and legislation, because they are complicit in the violence fuelled by their words and actions. The safety of the LGBTQ community depends on our ability to end both the hatred toward our community and the epidemic of gun violence that has spiralled out of control.”
More than 20 percent of hate crimes reported nationally in 2014 targeted people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the most recent FBI statistics available. Hate crimes reporting is not mandatory, and dramatically undercounts the number of hate crimes for all categories, particularly those based on gender identity. A recent investigation by The Associated Press found that more than 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments across the country had not reported a single hate crime to the FBI for the past six years, representing about 17 percent of these law enforcement agencies nationwide.
HRC has observed alarming violence from coast to coast against the backdrop of more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in 34 states in 2016 alone. In the wake of last year’s marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, anti-LGBTQ activists have introduced a wide range of legislation targeting LGBTQ people. These bills have mainly fallen into three categories: bills targeting transgender adults and youth, including blocking their access to appropriate restrooms and other public facilities; bills creating broad “religious” loopholes enabling virtually any individual or organisation to discriminate; and bills aimed overriding local LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections offered by municipal governments. The onslaught of these bills, combined with the dangerous rhetoric that lawmakers employ in soliciting support for them, has given license to the view that LGBTQ people are second class citizens deserving of not only discrimination, but harassment, intimidation, and violence.
This wave of anti-LGBTQ state legislation is made possible by a lack of comprehensive federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Last year, HRC helped introduce the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected by our nation’s civil rights laws. Today, only 18 states and just over 100 cities have comprehensive, statewide nondiscrimination protections inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity. While Orlando has established local nondiscrimination protections, Florida does not guarantee statewide protections and LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are.
As The New York Times editorialised this week, “Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.” Sunday’s attack at Pulse nightclub has underscored, in the most tragic way imaginable, how deadly hate can be when it is compounded by access to military-style weapons.
HRC has occasionally adopted positions on broader policy issues which deeply impact the LGBTQ community, but this is the first time in the organisation’s 36-year history that a special session has been called in order to do so. Moving forward, the Human Rights Campaign — which will remain focused achieving full federal equality, ending anti-LGBTQ hate, and ensuring the safety, health, well-being and legal protections of LGBTQ people — will work in coalition with gun safety advocates and other allies in the LGBTQ movement and beyond to realise its goals for stemming the epidemic of gun violence.
Full text of the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Campaign follows below:
JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN AND HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN FOUNDATION BOARDS OF DIRECTORS JUNE 16, 2016
In an emergency joint meeting held by the Boards of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign, Inc. (“HRC”) and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Inc. (“HRCF”) held by teleconference on June 16, 2016, upon motion, duly made and seconded, both the Board of Directors of HRC and the Board of Directors of HRCF adopted the following resolution:
Whereas, HRC and HRCF Boards grieve the loss of 49 LGBTQ people and allies who were targeted and assassinated — as well as 53 others who were injured — in a premeditated and senseless assault that took place on Sunday, June 12th at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23; Amanda Alvear, 25; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33; Antonio Davon Brown, 29; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29; Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25; Luis Daniel Conde, 39; Cory James Connell, 21; Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22; Paul Terrell Henry, 41; Frank Hernandez, 27; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25; Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25; Kimberly Morris, 37; Akyra Monet Murray, 18; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20; Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33; Martin Benitez Torres, 33; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37; Luis S. Vielma, 22; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37; Jerald Arthur Wright, 31;
Whereas, since 1980, the Human Rights Campaign has worked to advance the civil rights of LGBTQ people wherever they have been denied or threatened; recognising the strength and power of bipartisan coalitions across civil rights movements;
Whereas, we have battled more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in 34 states this year and we believe that lawmakers behind these bills — with their hateful and dangerous words and actions — eliminate critical protections and give license to others to harass, threaten and terrorise LGBTQ people;
Whereas, we recognise that the tragedy in Orlando that struck at the LGBTQ community, the Latinx community and the nation on an unprecedented scale may have been prevented in several ways: in our mission to realise LGBTQ equality by ensuring full legal equality at the city, state and federal level, including passing the Equality Act; ending the stigma that exists today against LGBTQ people; ensuring the health, safety and well-being of LGBTQ people in their everyday lives; and by ending the ability of dangerous, hate-filled killers to have easy access to deadly, military-style guns;
Whereas, the LGBTQ community has historically been the target of brutal hate crimes, violence and discrimination;
Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation will continue to challenge leaders and individuals who target our LGBTQ community with hateful speech, and with policies that threaten and undermine the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of our community in ways that can lead to violence; and
Resolved, that we will continue our tireless efforts to achieve full federal equality, end the stigma existing against LGBTQ people today, and ensure the safety, health well-being and legal protections of LGBTQ people in their everyday lives;
Resolved, the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation support common-sense gun safety reform within the United States, including limiting access to assault-style rifles, expanding background checks, and limiting the ability for suspected terrorists and those with a history of domestic abuse to access guns;
Resolved, that the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation will continue its primary focus of working for equality for LGBTQ people, and understand that given the reality of violence today, common-sense gun safety protections are vital to ensure LGBTQ people’s safety;
Resolved, that we stand with organizations and leaders who have committed a lifetime to this work, affirmatively supporting their efforts; and that we recognise our members and supporters, like many of their fellow Americans, are responsible gun owners, who, as survey after survey shows, also support sensible gun safety measures and restrictions on firearms without impacting the rights of responsible gun owners; and that we believe strongly in protecting the Constitutional rights of every American — believing we can protect those rights and innocent people from violence and recognising that today, there are 49 fewer Americans who can access those rights.
Resolved, that staff is empowered to develop positions for the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation and to make further recommendations to the Boards for action consistent with this resolution.
The undersigned hereby certifies that the foregoing is a true record of a resolution duly adopted at a meeting of the Boards of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and that said meeting was held in accordance with District of Columbia law and the By-Laws of the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation by telephone on June 16, 2016, and that said resolution is now in full force and effect without modifications or rescission.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have executed my name as Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, Inc. and of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Inc., the 16th day of June, 2016.
A True Record.