If there’s a glimmer of hope in the massacre of dozens of patrons at a gay nightclub in Orlando this weekend, it’s this.
It has firmly established gay Americans as an “us,” rather than a “them.”
By shooting more than 100 people in a crowded LGBT-friendly nightclub, Omar Mateen, a radicalized U.S-born Islamic terrorist with a special revulsion for gay people, has unintentionally pushed America toward embracing a segment of the population that has been struggling on a long, and often painful, trajectory toward equality.
The most heartening image of this ghastly weekend was the line of hundreds of Orlando residents standing in the 90-degree swelter on Sunday afternoon to offer their blood to the survivors.
Straight blood. Gay blood. Turns out there’s no difference. And the compassion of those would-be donors is a manifestation of how ultimately flimsy the walls of prejudice have come to be in Florida.
Even though those walls have been strong here.
After all, the massacre happened in a state where it is still legal to deny employment and housing to gay people simply based their sexual orientation. Last year, Florida officially became the last state in America to end the unconstitutional ban on gay adoption.
And this year, Florida’s taxpayers are stuck with potentially more than $1 million in legal fees for what a judge called the state’s “history of resistance” in granting gay couples the right to marry.
This is a far cry from the ISIS custom of throwing homosexuals off a tall building and then stoning them to death, but our form of gay bashing is nothing to be proud of.
And now that gay people are the victims of worst mass shooting in U.S. history, it becomes harder than ever to judge them as Americans with an asterisk, a kind of less-than-whole people who live among us.
The shooter’s father, Seddique Mateen, characterized his son’s slaughter at the Pulse nightclub as something that was unnecessary because it’s already being handled at a higher level:
“God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality,” the father wrote on Facebook.
That sentiment wasn’t any more ugly than the Bible verse that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Tea Party Republican, tweeted two hours after the massacre ended at the Orlando club:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” Patrick tweeted.
It was later removed after it became the focus of complaints. Patrick’s spokesman later explained that the tweet was inadvertent, and something Patrick had scheduled earlier in the week before the massacre.
And it was only months ago during this ongoing presidential campaign when three candidates — Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal — shared the stage at a so-called “religious liberties” conference with a host who talked about the biblical justification for killing homosexuals.
“Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Yes, Romans chapter 1, verse 32; the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death. His words not mine!” Pastor Kevin Swanson told the cheering Iowa audience. “And I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! And I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God.”
“And I am willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.”
In North Carolina, after voting for a state bill to keep transgender people from using the restroom that comports with their identity, the author of that bill, Rep. Dan Bishop, wrote that he would fight to make sure the bill became law.
“I do not fear man,” Bishop wrote. “I fear God. So I won’t be backing down.”
Sunday’s massacre makes it infinitely harder for those in America who want to use religion as an excuse to designate LGBT people as people who deserve punishment.
For now that they have shed so much blood, just for being themselves, it becomes more clear that they are us and we are them.
And building walls, based on religion, has never seemed more cruel and stone-aged.
Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.