We have the facts: A horrific mass shooting—the worst perpetrated by a single gunman in U.S. history— took place at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Florida. An overwhelming majority of the shooter’s victims identified as LGBT. The gunman himself was reported as expressing homophobic sentiments on an number of occasions.
So why won’t Republicans acknowledge the LGBT community in discussing this tragic event?
The Republican National Committee recently released its official statement on the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Recognition of the victims’ LGBT identities and violence motivated by homophobia were entirely glossed over. Instead, the RNC framed the horrific event solely as a terrorist attack against Americans by the Islamic State.
“A terrorist attack against any American is an assault against us all, and Saturday’s violence will only harden the commitment of our people to maintain a free, peaceful, and democratic society in which all beliefs are tolerated,” said the RNC.
In its original statement following the shooting, the RNC attempted to acknowledge the LGBT victims, albeit through meager phrasing. The statement “violence against any group of people simply for their lifestyle or orientation has no place in America or anywhere else” was ultimately omitted. Apparently it was just too risqué for the RNC’s constituents. The revision in the official statement was deemed to be more “inclusive” according to RNC spokesperson. After all, inclusivity by way of explicitly excluding LGBT folk is the best kind of inclusivity.
Along with the RNC, other GOP politicians and lawmakers have largely ignored the LGBT community in discussing the Orlando shooting. According to analysts at the Washington Post, Republicans have been ten times less likely than Democrats to invoke the letters “LGBT” or make any mention about the gay community.
The divide in discourse was also made very apparent through responses on social media platforms. In the hours following the violence at Pulse nightclub, Republicans tweeted “thoughts and prayers” while avoiding any mention of the LGBT nightclub or victims. Democrats and others, conversely, sent their condolences to the gay and lesbian community, hashtagging #solidarity and #LGBT.
GOP politicians are instead insisting that the motives behind this violent event were entirely driven by anti-American Muslim terrorism. Republicans have latched on to shooter Omar Mateen’s professed allegiance to the Islamic State while sidestepping any conversation related to homophobia or a culture of violence against non heteronormative identities—ideals related to many of the policies they have endorsed.
In an interview with Boston Herald Radio, former U.S. Senator and Trump campaign leader Scott Brown stated his views on the attack, expressing that he did not see the shooting as directly related to LGBT people or homophobic violence.
“I classify them as Americans,” said Brown “and it was an attack against all Americans, not just one particular class of type of Americans.”
In all reality, Republicans’ refusal to discuss LGBT issues should hardly be surprising. These are the lawmakers and politicians who have argued that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to get married, that LGBT Americans don’t need to be protected by anti-discrimination laws, and that trans people should not be able to use the bathroom that matches their identity. Do we really expect them to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community?
“Republicans’ silence is actually quite apt,” explains Mark Joseph Stern of Slate. “As a party, after all, the GOP has spent decades attempting to degrade sexual minorities and even drive them out of public life. It is altogether fitting, then, that conservative politicians are erasing LGBTQ people from their own tragedy.”
Republicans who have taken steps to acknowledge the LGBT dimension of the Orlando shooting are doing so by voicing anti-Muslim politics and xenophobia. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump argued that Democrats and others are choosing gay-hating Muslims over protecting LGBT Americans.
Former Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz made similar statements, pitting the LGBT community against those who religiously identity as Muslim. “For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging,” said Cruz, “now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.”
Again, no real surprises here from the Grand Old Party.