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The Fact Is, the Worst Shooting in US History Targeted the LGBTQ Community

pulse

"One city. One family. One love. One heart. One pulse." - The new Pulse nightclub Facebook cover image. (Facebook)

50 dead. 53 injured. Dozens of families and groups of friends in unimaginable pain. Americans—especially those in the LGBTQ community—left afraid and confused.

Those are some of the effects of Saturday night's shooting at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The tragedy was this country's 173rd mass shooting of 2016 and the worst gun massacre in US history.

This was not an indiscriminate massacre: A homophobic gunman specifically targeted the gay community.

What happened at Pulse

pulse latin night

Pulse nightclub posted this image to Facebook to promote their Latin night last night. (Facebook)

Saturday was Latin flavor night at Orlando's "hottest gay bar," Pulse. Around 2 am there were about 300 people in the club, including many patrons from the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities.

Omar Mateen, the gunman, stormed in and started rapidly firing his AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.

Much like November's Paris attacks at a concert at the Bataclan hall, several clubgoers initially thought the shots were part of the show.

Despite the fact that Mateen had been under FBI surveillance for possible terrorist ties, he had just bought his guns legally, days earlier.

In video from the scene, you can hear the gunman firing 24 rounds in only nine seconds.

At 2:09 am, Pulse's Facebook page posted a simple, chilling status:

get out of pulse

Some club patrons were trapped inside in a tense hostage situation for a full three hours, until police broke the front door down with an armored vehicle, stormed the club, and took Mateen out. Dozens were dead inside, and others died on the way to the hospital.

It was the deadliest shooting in American history.

The shooter targeted the LGBTQ community

orlando vigil LGBTQ

A vigil for Orlando at the White House. (vpickering/Flickr)

What's not clear is how dedicated Mateen was to the Islamic State. (He swore allegiance to ISIS in a phone call to 911, moments before the attack.) It's not clear how fully radicalized he was, though he'd been investigated by the FBI.

It looks like that Mateen worked alone, without support or training from ISIS.

What is clear is that he targeted the LGBTQ community. He obviously chose Pulse deliberately.

Some context

Before the Orlando shooting, the fight over North Carolina's discriminatory bathroom law (and other anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ rights laws) reminded us just how far away LGBTQ equality really is in this country.

It's possible Mateen was inspired by Muslim Sharia law, which explicitly states that homosexuality is a sin punishable by death.

Mateen's father said that his son wasn't motivated by religious extremism. He did say his son became upset after seeing two gay men kissing in Miami.

June is Gay Pride month

June is LGBTQ Pride month, commemorating the Stonewall riots, late 1960s demonstrations that some consider to be the most pivotal moments in the fight for LGBTQ equality and gay liberation in America.

And while June is all about celebrating the LGBT community, the month has taken a tragic turn. The Pulse shooting is a sobering reminder of the dangers the LGBTQ community faces simply for existing.

It's nearly one year since the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality nationwide, a giant leap forward for LGBTQ equality in the US.

The bathroom wars and the Orlando attacks painfully demonstrate that the community is still very much subject to hate and discrimination in 2016.

In fact, many gay men who hoped to donate blood following the Pulse massacre were banned from doing so because of longstanding guidelines that started in the wake of the AIDS crisis—rules that experts believe are outdated.

So while men and women flocked to blood donation centers in Orlando, many gay men were unable to support their own community. It's worth noting that all blood is screened for HIV and AIDS after it's donated.

Hate groups and bigots are applauding the shooting

A small but vocal group of homophobes are applauding Omar Mateen's actions.

Notorious hate group the Westboro Baptist Church sent out a sickening message after news of the shooting broke: "God sent the shooter."

Many Christians and Muslims have loudly denounced homophobia and the Pulse attacks

Are some politicians being hypocritical?

Some are pointing out a clear disconnect: some politicians who are offering their thoughts and prayers have refused to support measures designed to reduce gun violence.

Especially damning are criticisms of politicians who have taken intolerant stances on the LGBTQ community in the past, and who now voice support in the wake of the Orlando massacre.

But for the most part, the US (and the world) is uniting in grief

Many organizations have denounced Saturday's attacks, from the Vatican to the Council on American-Islamic relations. There has been an outpouring of support from coast to coast.

Buildings and monuments were lit with rainbow colors, the colors of the LGBTQ community.

The Empire State building went dark in a display of mourning.

Tributes to the victims have begun

Among those killed were Juan Ramon Guerrero, who had only just come out to his family. And Luis Vielma, who worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios.

Now, dozens of families have been ripped apart by gun violence and hate.

A more comprehensive list of victims can be found here.

There's a lot of talk about how "love will always win"

In the words of Grammy winner and Broadway star du jour Lin-Manuel Miranda:

"Love is love is love is love is love."

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The Fact Is, the Worst Shooting in US History Targeted the LGBTQ Community

Clementine Amidon

Clementine is a graduate of Mount Holyoke, where she studied English and French. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, the New York Observer, USA Today, BUST, and Odyssey. Clementine is an undercover short story writer, and in her spare time she’s on a quest to craft the perfect tweet.

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