Members of Chicago's LGBT community speak out after Orlando tragedy
In the wake of a nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, that officials are calling the deadliest in U.S. history, local LGBT organizations and members of the Chicago-area LGBT community are expressing their grief and showing their support.
The shooting, which left 50 killed and 53 injured, occurred early Sunday in a gay dance club called Pulse. Vigils in honor of the victims were held across the country Sunday night, including in Chicago.
"While we don't know yet the specific motive of the shooter, it is obviously a hateful act," Equality Illinois, a LGBT civil rights organization, said in a written statement. "We do know we should all feel safe in our homes, schools and places of business, worship and entertainment. Our hearts go out to the Orlando community and the family and friends of the victims, and we wish a speedy recovery to the injured."
Equality Illinois also shared a GoFundMe page set up by Equality Florida, which is raising money to support the victims of the shootings and their families. The site had garnered about $900,000 as of 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Center on Halsted, a Chicago community center dedicated to the LGBTQ movement, is holding a vigil at 7 p.m. Monday on the roof terrace at 3656 N. Halsted St., according to its Facebook page. Victims of the tragedy also were honored during vigils Sunday night in the Lakeview and Andersonville neighborhoods.
Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson, who attended a vigil Sunday, said he watched as attendees struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
"We as a community are toggling between three emotions: anger, deep sadness and reminding ourselves of the pride we have in our community," he said.
Chicago is among the many cities nationwide with upcoming LGBT festivities in June, which is LGBT Pride Month. The Chicago Pride Festival is scheduled for next weekend, and the Pride Parade is planned June 26.
"At a moment like this, playing into our values of openness and pride is so critical," Johnson said.
In a statement released to ABC 7 Chicago, the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications said an additional planning meeting has been scheduled regarding those events, and city officials will "adjust and increase resources" if necessary.
"Every year, the city's public safety departments work closely with the parade organizers to ensure a safe, secure and enjoyable time for participants, attendees and residents," the office said. "This year will be no different - and we will not allow the despicable act that occurred in Orlando to diminish Chicago's celebration of our LGBT community at the Pride Parade."
In a statement from the Gay Liberation Network, the Chicago organization denounced "anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate" in response to the shooting.
"We have in our LGBT community many Muslims and immigrants who catch it from both sides - racist Islamophobes on one side, anti-LGBT bigots on the other," the statement reads. "We especially need to stand with them and stand against scapegoating, period."
Rachel Tiven, CEO of nonprofit Lambda Legal, which has a Chicago office, echoed those sentiments, saying the LGBT civil rights nonprofit has received gestures of "condolence and solidarity from Muslim leaders. ... No true religion calls for harm to others, and Islam is no exception. Religion is no excuse for violence, and it is no excuse for bigotry and discrimination.
"Until all LGBT people are accepted fully wherever they live, we will never have real safety and security," she added. "Lambda Legal will continue to fight for our communities and protect ourselves. Together we will succeed."
The shooting occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims focus on prayer and building strong spiritual connections, according to a statement from the Islamic Society of Northwest Suburbs leaders.
"This is clearly an act of terror committed by a man who has nothing to do with true Islam as practiced by the millions of peaceful and law-abiding Muslims of this great country," leaders of the Rolling Meadows group said in the statement. "We urge our community to pray for an end to senseless acts of violence like these and be vigilant in these times."