Some of June’s gay pride celebrations happened last weekend, but many are still ahead. The one in Louisville, Ky., is among them. There’s a parade scheduled for Friday.
That’s your state, Mitch McConnell. You should go.
If you’re not comfortable marching, stand on the sidelines. If parades aren’t your thing, make an appearance at one of the other pride events in Kentucky in coming days.
Just show up. And by doing so, show that the absence of “gay” or “LGBT” in your statements immediately following the Orlando massacre – and in the statements of so many other prominent Republicans – isn’t because you place us and our concerns behind some thick pane of glass with a Do Not Touch sign on it, and the sign stays up even when blood and tears pool beneath it.
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For more than 48 hours, Paul Ryan also seemed to avoid any mention of the kind of nightclub that the Orlando gunman chose and one of the reasons its revelers were marked for death.
On Tuesday morning, that silence finally ended, as Ryan told journalists at a news conference in Washington that he wanted to “be clear.”
“Members of the LGBT community were the targets,” he said. “They were simply attacked for who they are.”
He thus joined his 2012 running mate, Mitt Romney, who sent out a tweet midday Monday saying that he and his wife, Ann, were offering “a special prayer for the LGBT community that was the focus of this attack.”
Ryan also joined Donald Trump, who mentioned LGBT Americans repeatedly in his formal remarks on Monday afternoon, expressing “solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT community” and asserting that the gunman wanted “to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.”
But more conspicuous than what Romney and Trump said was what so many other Republicans didn’t.
Bemoaning the carnage, they justly condemned the Islamic State and violent extremists. They rightly paid tribute to “first responders.”
But this specificity didn’t extend to the lives and loves of the people killed. Even Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, sidestepped the subject, failing to emphasize that many of them spent their final terrified moments in a place where they had sought precisely the comfort and belonging that they didn’t always feel on the other side of its walls.
We still have much to learn about the range and exact mix of the gunman’s motives. There are reports that he cased other locations. His unhinged diatribes apparently extended to women, blacks and Jews as well as gays.
His past behavior and his call to 911 demonstrated an overarching hatred of America, with its celebration of diversity and individual liberty. The revelers in Pulse epitomized that liberty, and what happened to them is part of a bigger story and bigger struggle that affect everyone in this country.
But that doesn’t preclude an acknowledgment of their sexual orientations, and it doesn’t explain – or excuse – any reluctance to discuss that.
Roman Catholic leaders, too, shied away. Statements by the bishop of Orlando and by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said nothing about a gay nightclub or gays.
This so troubled the Rev. James Martin, a best-selling Jesuit author, that he posted a video commentary about it on Facebook on Monday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, it had been viewed about 700,000 times.
“If the murders had happened, God forbid, in a church of a particular Christian denomination, Catholic leaders would decry the murders and then naturally express their solidarity with members of that denomination,” he said in the video, adding that for the most part, “this was not done for the grieving LGBT community.”
He told me on Tuesday that there were some exceptions, including Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., who wrote an extraordinary blog post in which he conceded that religion, including Catholicism, “often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,” and that such contempt can lead to violence. Lynch stressed that the Orlando victims “were all made in the image and likeness of God.”
“We teach that,” Lynch wrote. “We should believe that. We must stand for that.”
“We” includes political leaders of both parties. If Ted Cruz can mourn Orlando as an attack on gay people – which, in fact, he did – then every other Republican can, too.
This is one of those moments, in the wake of terror, when we find the most apt and evocative ways to underscore our oneness and renounce our fear. When we make grand gestures. When we make pointed ones.
So Majority Leader McConnell, pick your rally. Speaker Ryan, accompany him. Gov. Scott, attend the funerals of gay victims. Other Republicans and Democrats, recognize LGBT Americans with both your words and your presence.
You want to show our enemies what America stands for? Then stand with us.
Frank Bruni is a New York Times columnist.