orlandoAndy Garcia, Program Manager

Because I work in LGBT rights, people are asking me what they can do in response to Orlando. My response: find a vigil if you need healing or want to show support. If you want to do a bit more, here’s what I’ll tell you:

1) Think about the 200+ anti-LGBT bills introduced this year in states across the country. Our very dignity and self-worth has been discussed and voted on in our own state capitals by the very people some of our friends, families and neighbors voted for. Find out who introduced and voted for these bills in your state and vote them out. Donate to LGBT organizations working to preserve our rights.

2) Read the names of the victims. Nearly all of them have names like mine. Latino names. The attack in Orlando was an attack on the Latino community, too. Think about that when you cast your vote for president. Trump has been inciting violence and prejudice against Latinos since Day One of his campaign. If you don’t like Hillary, fine. Don’t vote for her. Just don’t vote for Trump. Things will get much worse if you do.

3) Understand what LGBT safe spaces mean to us and how this attack feels like a massive violation. I think about all the LGBT clubs I’ve been to over the past 25 years. These were the first places I ever felt free. Dancing to a single song could literally melt away years of guilt, fear and shame. These are not just places to get drunk or have fun; they are sacred spaces to us. They save our lives by teaching us how to love ourselves and each other. Most of us don’t learn that growing up so we have to teach ourselves. Understand this or stay away from our bars, clubs and other safe spaces.

4) Tell your elected officials to ban the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The same one used to slaughter two dozen children at a school in Connecticut. The same one used to massacre moviegoers in Colorado. The same one used in San Bernadino. And this guy bought it legally, in the past two weeks, because he could. They sell them at Walmart. There are no background checks. Even for someone on the FBI watch list, like he was. F*** the NRA.

5) Stop demonizing Islam. That’s what ISIS wants you to do. This guy was not funded or trained by ISIS. He was American born and raised. He simply hated LGBT people for the same twisted reasons millions of other Americans–Christian and otherwise–do. It made him angry to see two men kissing. Christianity has plenty of LGBT blood and tears on its hands. Clean your own house before you start pointing fingers.

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Andy Garcia

Andy is Program Manager at Equality Federation, the strategic partner to state-based organizations working to win equality in the communities we call home. In this role, he strengthens the states working to pass local and state-level nondiscrimination laws by identifying and developing programs and resources, including legal and legislative support, communications resources, messaging, and constituency group expertise.

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