ACLU: Orlando shooting a powerful reminder to tone down gay rhetoric

In the wake of this weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando that left 50 people dead and dozens more injured, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday it hoped both state and national lawmakers would tone down rhetoric on issues related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“The attack there was an attack on freedom in America and specifically against LGBT people, and it happened in a place that was supposed to be a safe haven,” said the ACLU’s James Esseks, the organizations LGBT & HIV national project director.

Esseks noted that the shooting happened a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state prohibitions on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional

“A year ago, we were sitting here and people all across the country were celebrating marriage equality,” Esseks said. “People said then that LGBT people had achieved equality. We knew that was not true.”

According to the organization, more than 150 bills it felt targeted the LGBT community were considered in states across the nation during the 2016 legislative calendar. That includes Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal in May.

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The group said Georgia’s bill, which would have allowed opponents of same-sex marriage to cite religious exemptions in denying service to gay people, was among those that came closest to passage at the state level in the wake of the national marriage ruling.

Among bills that passed were North Carolina’s HB2, which includes a ban on people using public restrooms based on their gender identity, and a bill in Mississippi that allows businesses to refuse services to gay couples based on religious objections.

The ACLU has sued against both those laws.

The attack in Orlando, which happened at a gay nightclub in the city called the Pulse, was one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history.

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